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N Korea fires short-range rockets to protest war games
March 16, 2014, 8:43 pm

Pyongyang has long said that war exercises between Seoul and Washington threatened its security [Xinhua]

Pyongyang has long said that war exercises between Seoul and Washington threatened its security [Xinhua]

North Korea has launched at least 25 short-range rockets, media in southern neighbour Seoul has reported, in an apparent protest to the South’s continuing military exercises with the US.

North Korea had weeks ago  called on its southern neighbour to cancel annual war games with the US military.

The war exercises – known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle – which are held from the end of February till the middle of April, have been a major source of contention for Pyongyang.

Pyongyang’s National Defense Commission said in a policy bureau spokesman’s statement that dialogue between the two Koreas about security on the peninsula “can never be compatible” with war games that are designed to wage war.

Seoul said its exercises were of a defensive nature.

North and South Korea are not technically “at peace” since no peace treaty was signed following the Korean War in 1953. The Demilitarized Zone between the countries is the most heavily armed border in the world.

Last year, Pyongyang threatened the US with a preemptive nuclear strike amid warnings of retaliatory countermeasures if the US and South Korea went ahead with the drills.

But this year’s rocket launches are considered a far more muted response to the US presence on the peninsula, and pose no international security threat to such countries as Japan, which is considered within striking distance of more advanced missiles.

Both Koreas have made attempts to wind down the hostile rhetoric and find means to mend often tumultuous ties.

On February 21, and for the next days, hundreds of Korean families separated by the Korean War in the 1950s were reunited.

This was the first time since November 2010 that families were reunited in a programme that both countries have followed to bridge their differences.

In September, both countries  fully reopened the Kaesong industrial complex, following two rounds of talks.

The Kaesong Industrial Complex was established in 2004 as an attempt to bring the two Koreas closer through cross-border cooperation and employing 53,000 North Korean workers.

But Kaesong was shut down in April after tensions between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington peaked over the former’s launching of upgraded missiles and the latter holding joint military exercises.

Since its reopening, Pyongyang has called for a 10 per cent wage increase for the North Korean labourers working there.

Source: Agencies