SEOUL — The arrival of the USS Kitty Hawk and other U.S. military assets has North Korea warning that joint military exercises this week by the United States and South Korea could lead to “actual war.”

The Japan-based aircraft carrier and other units are in South Korea to take part in annual exercises U.S. officials characterize as “defense oriented” and designed to better defend against “external aggression.”

North Korea apparently feels differently.

“There is no guarantee that the large-scale joint military exercises will not go over to an actual war.

“The U.S. and the South Korean authorities should immediately cancel their plan for the provocative joint military exercises,” read a commentary carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea routinely denounces U.S. military moves, often calling them a “prelude to war.”

The exercises — called Foal Eagle and the Reception, Staging Onward Movement and Integration exercise — are scheduled to include movement of Stryker armored vehicles, high-speed Navy vessels shuttling troops around the peninsula and an amphibious landing in southern South Korea.

Thousand of U.S. troops from bases both on and off the peninsula are participating. U.S. Marines from Okinawa also will take part.

“Despite the fact that U.S. Marine Corps involvement in two annual Pacific exercises in late March has been scaled back due to the operational demands of the recent tsunami relief efforts, the Okinawa, Japan-based III Marine Expeditionary Force will participate in this year’s RSO&I and Foal Eagle exercises on the Korean Peninsula,” a Marine statement read.

“The combined RSO&I command post exercise will include about 300 III MEF personnel near Yonjin, Korea, and another 200 participating from Okinawa via communications systems.”

Foal Eagle is to include 350 personnel from the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, which will conduct F/A-18 flight operations from Chong Ju Air Base, officials said.

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