SEOUL — As the United States and South Korea kick off joint exercises this weekend, North Korea said the military moves put the countries closer to “real war.”

The North, which regularly denounces military drills such as Foal Eagle and the Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration (RSOI) exercises, particularly “flailed” the presence of the USS Kitty Hawk, a Japan-based carrier that anchored at Pusan on Monday.

The port visits by the Kitty Hawk and several escorts was tantamount to “leveling a gun at its dialogue partner,” the North’s official Korea Central News Agency reported Friday.

“At a time when the situation is growing tenser over the nuclear issue, the United States has sent this notorious flotilla to south Korean ports … this is another open military blackmail and an intolerable provocation. The current developments are evidently a prelude to a war against the north.”

Earlier last week, the North vowed to increase its “nuclear deterrent” force — calling it “a treasured sword and shield for defending [the] peace of the country” — in the wake of the exercise.

The exercise includes thousands of U.S. forces from both on and off the peninsula. U.S. officials have repeatedly described it as “defense oriented.” The exercise includes Stryker armored vehicles, a beach landing and movement of troops and equipment to various points on the peninsula.

“The U.S. had announced its plan for the large-scale nuclear war exercises targeted against the DPRK before bringing these ill-famed nuclear strike forces, whipping up war hysteria,” KCNA said, using the acronym for the North’s official name of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“This reckless act of military provocation is bringing again dark clouds of war over the Korean Peninsula.”

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