North Korea denounces Japan-US-South Korea joint exercise

North Korea has denounced a large-scale joint exercise by Japan, the United States and South Korea, warning such action could lead to "fatal consequences."

The three countries carried out the "Freedom Edge" exercise for three days through Saturday in waters including the East China Sea, with the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt taking part. Seven types of drills were held, including a missile defense operation at sea and response to a cyberattack.

The North's Foreign Ministry said via the state-run Korean Central News Agency on Sunday that it strongly denounces the three countries for their "provocative military muscle-flexing."

The ministry branded the trilateral security cooperation as "the Asian version of NATO."

In an apparent reference to Pyongyang's ties with Russia and China, the statement vowed to further strengthen "mutual cooperation and concerted action" so as to deter "the hostile forces' collective military intervention."

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reportedly delivered what state media called an "important" speech at a plenary meeting of the ruling Workers' Party Central Committee on Saturday. The report did not include any details.

Focus is on whether Kim mentioned the country's nuclear and missile development programs in the fourth year of its five-year defense plan, or if he made any remarks on what posture Pyongyang will take toward the US and South Korea.