N. Korea media slams South's drills with US

South Korean Marines exit an amphibious assault vehicle during a landing operation in the southern city of Pohang, on Nov 5, 2018.
South Korean Marines exit an amphibious assault vehicle during a landing operation in the southern city of Pohang, on Nov 5, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL • South Korea's resumption of small-scale military drills with the United States violated a recent agreement aimed at lowering tensions on the Korean Peninsula, North Korean state media said yesterday.

About 500 US and South Korean marines began military drills last week that were among joint exercises indefinitely suspended in June as Seoul and Washington focused on engaging with Pyongyang.

The Korean Marine Exchange Programme violated a Sept 19 agreement signed by North and South Korea that called for a halt to "all hostile acts", said the Rodong Sinmun, the North's official party newspaper.

The joint two-week drills are "directly against the inter-Korean military agreement that promised to eliminate practical threats of war and fundamental hostile relations from the Korean peninsula", the newspaper said.

A spokesman for South Korea's Defence Ministry yesterday rejected the North's criticism, saying the drills are defensive exercises involving units under the size of a battalion.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump pledged to work towards denuclearisation at their landmark June summit in Singapore, where Mr Trump promised to end joint US-South Korea military exercises.

But the agreement was short on specifics, and negotiations have made little headway.

About 500 US and South Korean marines began military drills last week that were among joint exercises indefinitely suspended in June as Seoul and Washington focused on engaging with Pyongyang.

Last week, North Korea called off a planned meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York "because they weren't ready", US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said last Friday.

North Korean media mentioned the cancelled meeting for the first time last Saturday, when the Chosun Sinbo website reported that the talks could still be productive.

 

But it repeated North Korean warnings that the country could restart its nuclear weapons development if the US does not make more concessions.

 

The biggest combat-readiness war game ever staged in and around Japan also went ahead last week, with the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan joining Japanese destroyers and a Canadian warship in the ocean off Japan - another key player in the effort to pressure North Korea.

"It's an anachronistic military move to openly hold war drills aimed at others while the United States naval forces residing in Japan are also participating," Rodong Sinmun said.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2018, with the headline 'N. Korea media slams South's drills with US'. Print Edition | Subscribe