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US-S.Korea to Move Ahead with War Exercises Despite Korean Peace Process

North Korea considers the joint military drills as an ‘act of war’, and that its missile program is a defensive action to these provocations.
South Korea

Image Courtesy: Defence Talk

The South Korean Defence Ministry on Tuesday said that it will carry out its annual military drills with the US once the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics are over.

This is the first time that Seoul has spoken about the drills following the historic visit of a North Korean delegation. The team was headed by Kim Yo-jong, sister of Kim Jong-un and it represented the greatest rapprochement in years between the two Koreas as part of the Winter Games, reports Efe news.

Earlier, South Korean President Moon Jae In had rejected the call by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for the resumption of joint military drills.

In response to Abe’s request, Moon said, “it was a matter of South Korea's sovereignty and its domestic affairs” and noted that it would not be appropriate for Abe to directly mention the issue.

North Korea considers the joint military drills as an ‘act of war’ and has said that its missile program is a defensive action to these provocations.

The US and South Korea had postponed the joint drills, Foal Eagle and Key Resolve -- normally carried out between late February and the beginning of March and which North Korea views as a rehearsal for invading its territory -- to avoid coinciding with the Olympic and Paralympic Games happening in Pyeongchang county until March 18.

In its report on Tuesday, the Defence ministry ruled out that possibility, but neither did it specify dates for the drill, nor did it make any explicit reference to Foal Eagle, which unlike Key Resolve - a set of war games based on computer simulations - involves a massive deployment of military assets on the ground.

A ministry spokesperson told Efe news that the dates will be made public in the coming days.

General Vincent Brooks, who heads the US contingent of 28,000 troops on South Korean soil, assured a US parliamentary committee last week that both countries will carry out once a year their on-the-ground training, regardless of the inter-Korean rapprochement.

Seoul is convinced that improving relations with Pyongyang can help the regime return to the negotiating table with Washington, which has shown more scepticism and insisted that North Korea must commit to denuclearization.

US envoy to UN, Nikki Haley, had earlier questioned the wisdom of an inter-Korean dialogue. “North Korea can talk with anyone they want, but the US is not going to recognize it or acknowledge it until they agree to ban the nuclear weapons that they have,” Haley told reporters.

(with inputs from IANS)

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