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South Korea-US drills to begin soon
August 19, 2013, 5:38 am

Pyongyang declared in March that the existing armistice deal was defunct [AP]

Pyongyang declared in March that the existing armistice deal was defunct [AP]

South Korea and the United States are to begin annual joint military exercises which will last for 12 days and involve some 80,000 combined troops, press in the capital Seoul reported on Sunday.

The report, citing information from the Combined Forces Command (CFC), says the exercises will begin on Monday and measure the troops’ ability to ensure security on the Korean Peninsula and maintain the two allies’ joint defense capacity.

Joint exercises between South Korea and the US have long been a source of contention for North Korea. As the two Koreas are still technically at war in the absence of a comprehensive peace treaty, Pyongyang considers the presence of 28,5000 US troops in the southern side of the peninsula a threat.

The North Korean Policy Department of the National Defense Commission has called the joint drills “hostile acts and military provocations”.

In previous announcements, North Korea has said ending the exercises was a precondition to reopening diplomatic channels to resume talks with the US and its southern neighbor.

But in June, following a recent failed effort to revive direct talks with its southern neighbour, North Korea signaled it was ready to participate in high-level regional security talks with Washington.

While South Korea has offered to talk to its northern rival in previous months, there has not been any official US response to Pyongyang’s overtures.

Last month, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that North Korea remained one of the most critical US security challenges in Northeast Asia as it continued to pursue nuclear capabilities and develops long-range ballistic missiles.

The Pentagon has also said that its development of long-range ballistic missile programs – including the December 2012 Taepodong-2 missile launch and the April 2012 display of a new road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missile – demonstrate its threat to regional stability and US national security.

However, in a sign that relations between the two Koreas could be thawing, Pyongyang and Seoul agreed last week to reopen their joint industrial park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong. The complex had been shut down in April.

Source: Agencies