South Korea and the United States started joint military exercises Sunday, U.S. Forces Korea spokesman David Oten told CNN, prompting a furious response from North Korea.
The naval operations are "no more than an attempt to find a pretext for aggression and ignite a war at any cost," North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency said, warning that the drills "are putting the Korean Peninsula at a state of ultra-emergency."
North Korea warned of unpredictable "consequences" if the United States sends an aircraft carrier to the Yellow Sea for the military maneuvers.
The divided peninsula, tense at the best of times, has been near the boiling point since Tuesday, when North Korea shelled a South Korean island, killing four people.
China called Sunday for an emergency meeting of the six major powers involved in talks about the Korean peninsula.
Top diplomats from the six nations need to meet soon to "maintain peace and stability on the peninsula and ease the tension" in the region, Beijing's special representative for the region, Wu Dawei, said Sunday.
South Korea said Sunday it did not think the time was right for a resumption of the Six-Party talks, then added that its comment was not a response to China's call for an emergency meeting, which Seoul said it would "bear in mind."
But Seoul was extremely cautious about the proposal, given what it called the North's "military provocation," and recent nuclear moves.