Wed, 01 Dec 2021

North Korea warns U.S., S. Korea to cancel military exercises

Robert Besser
13 Aug 2021, 15:41 GMT+10

SEOUL, South Korea: South Korea and the U.S. should pay a price for conducting annual joint military drills this week, said Kim Yo Jong, a powerful North Korean official and sister of leader Kim Jong Un.

South Korea and the U.S. began preliminary training on Tuesday and more extensive computer-simulated exercises will start next week, military sources told Reuters.

The drills have led to increased tensions on the Korean peninsula, after a sudden thaw in relations saw Seoul and Pyongyang agree, in July, to reconnect a hotline cut last year.

The nuclear-armed North's reaction to the drills also threatens to upend efforts by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to reopen a joint liaison office that Pyongyang blew up last year and hold a summit to help restore relations.

In a statement carried by North Korean state news agency, KCNA, Kim Yo Jong said the exercises were an "act of self-destruction for which a dear price should be paid."

Martin Meiners, U.S. Department of Defense Spokesman, declined to comment on the North Korean statement.

"Combined training events are an ROK-US bilateral decision, and any decisions will be mutual," he said, using the initials of South Korea's official name, "ROK."

At a briefing on Tuesday, a South Korean Defence Ministry spokesperson declined to comment on the preliminary drills.

In a statement, South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles relations with the North, stressed it would not speculate about North Korea's intentions but would prepare for all possibilities.

Yang Moo-jin, Professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said Pyongyang might be trying to gain an upper hand in future talks.

The exercises were scaled back in recent years to encourage talks aimed at dismantling Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme in return for U.S. sanctions relief, but negotiations collapsed in 2019.

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