S Korea, US to conduct military drills despite N Korea's protest
10 February 2014, 12:50
South Korea's Defense Ministry announced Monday it will conduct annual joint military drills with the United States from February 24 to April 18 despite North Korea's protest against it. Pyongyang called the planned drills 'exercises of war'. South Korean Defense Ministry Spokesman Kim Min-seok said that South Korea-US combined forces will carry out the computer-simulated 'Key Resolve' command post exercise from February 24 to March 6.
The announcement comes after a nuclear-capable US B-52 bomber sortie last week prompted angry reactions from North Korea, which threatened to reconsider plans for reunions of families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War.
'The United Nations Command has informed the Korean People's Army in North Korea through their Panmunjom mission about both Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercise dates and the non-provocative nature of this training,' the command said in a statement.
North Korea has declined a recent invitation to discuss the release of imprisoned American missionary Kenneth Bae for the second time. Mr. Bae, a Korean-American, was arrested in North Korea in November 2012. Pyongyang said he used his tourism business to form groups to overthrow the government, and sentenced him to 15 years' hard labor in May.
It was unclear whether the latest withdrawal of the invitation had any connection to the United States' decision and to go ahead with the drills or not, even though US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki assured the military exercises were 'in no way linked to Mr. Bae's case'.
'We again call on the DPRK to grant Bae special amnesty and immediate release as a humanitarian gesture,' she added.
Last year, North Korea threatened nuclear attacks against the United States and its allies at the height of tensions coinciding with the US and South Korean drills.
The South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman said that it is an annually-held command post exercise between the two allies of defensive nature to verify defense capabilities of the South Korea-US combined forces, adding that around 5,200 US troops will participate in this year's exercise. It was larger than 3,500 US military servicemen's participation last year.
The 'Foal Eagle' field training exercise will be staged from February 24 to April 18, Mr. Kim said, noting that about 7,500 US forces will join the annual exercise of field maneuvers, lower than some 10,000 troops last year.
Voice of Russia, BBC, Xinhua
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