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Baek Seung-joo, a military analyst at the state-run Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in South Korea, said the North appears to be rattling its sabers ahead of the annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises planned for next week.

North Korea routinely denounces Seoul and Washington for such drills, calling them precursors to an invasion. The impoverished North faces heavy economic pressure when it is forced to mobilize its own military to counter South Korean drills.

On Monday, a North Korean military spokesman released an open letter that called the joint exercises “hideous provocations.” He warned that the North has access to a “nuclear deterrent powerful enough to protect” itself.

The North has conducted two nuclear tests since 2006.

Mr. Baek also said the North appears to be keeping tension alive in an effort to unite its own people, even as it moves to restore dialogue with the outside world.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Red Cross said in a statement that it has sent Pyongyang a list of items meant to help North Korea recover from recent flooding and heavy rain. The items included baby food, cookies and instant noodles.

The North has yet to accept the aid offer. Last week, the North’s Red Cross asked the South to send concrete as well. The South refused. Seoul worries such material may be used for military purposes.