S. Korea says N.K. threats undermine peace after Lavrov’s criticism of joint drills with U.S., Japan

South Korea said Thursday that North Korea's nuclear and missile threats are what undermine peace and security on the Korean Peninsula, after Russia's top diplomat denounced Seoul's joint military exercises with the United States and Japan as a source destabilizing the region. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said after a ministerial meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on Monday that the U.S. and its allies are "aggravating the security situation in the Asia-Pacific with their 'provocative actions,'" referring to the joint military exercises with the South and Japan, according to Russia's TASS news agency. Lavrov said that North Korea has recently expressed its concern over the joint drills, adding the situation is worsening to the point of "a hot phase." On Thursday, South Korea's foreign ministry rebutted Lavrov's claims. "North Korea's illegal nuclear and missile development and provocations in violation of U.N. sanctions are what threaten regional peace and security," ministry spoke sperson Lim Soo-suk said in a briefing. "The combined exercises with the United States and the trilateral exercises, among South Korea, the U.S. and Japan, are defensive actions to protect our citizens from the North's escalating nuclear and missile threats," Lim said. He also pointed out that South Korea remains open to dialogue, but it is Pyongyang that has refused to talk.