Tuesday, August 22, 2000
North Koreans: Exercise
threatens contacts with South
By Jim Lea
Osan bureau chief
PYONGTAEK, South Korea - North Korea has threatened to stop all contacts with South Korea if the Ulchi Focus Lens 2000 military training exercise is held.
"There will be no room for reconciliation and cooperation and peace will not be guaranteed if South Korea and the United States push ahead with a joint offensive military drill that threatens a dialogue partner," said the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland in North Korea.
The military exercise began Monday and is scheduled to last 12 days. The drill has been held annually since 1976 and is one of three major exercises sponsored by the ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command.
A Combined Forces Command spokeswoman declined comment on the report and referred queries to the South Korean government. A spokesman for South Korea's Defense Ministry said the exercise will be held as planned.
A spokesman for the Unification Ministry said the exercise will be held despite North Korea's threat. He said there are no field exercises involved in the drill and it in no way threatens North Korea. The spokesman added that the Korean portion of this year's exercise will focus on preparing for natural disasters, rather than war.
He said the South Korean government last week "notified provincial and city offices throughout the country not to hold any sort of war preparation drills that might provoke the North."
Commonly called UFL, the drill is primarily a computer-simulated command post exercise. Its purpose is to train U.S. and South Korean ground, naval, air and Marine forces to defend South Korea. It is a combination of the South Korean Ulchi civil defense exercise and the U.S. Focus Lens command post drill.
In the past, tens of thousands of South Korean reservists were mobilized for the drill and conducted simulated combat operations such as amphibious landings and river crossings.
Even before the exercise was announced last Thursday, the Defense Ministry said there would be no reserve mobilization or field exercises this year.
The North Korean report calls UFL a "clear violation of the inter-Korean joint declaration" issued at the end of the June summit talks between leaders of the two Koreas.
It also said that since the two Koreas "already have agreed to solve the national reunification issue in an independent way, it is unthinkable for South Korea to conduct a joint military drill with an outside force that is threatening the security of our country."
The report was identical in wording and tone to similar threats issued frequently by the North in the decades before this year's summit. During the June talks, leaders of the two Koreas agreed to dismantle their warring propaganda machines.
Since then, the Korean Central News Agency, Pyongyang's state-operated international news outlet, has aired no blasts at the South Korean government, although it has continued to hurl barbs at opposition politicians in the South, at the United States and Japan.
Bae Gi-chul contributed to this report.
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