Monday, August 22, 2005

US, South Korea To Go Ahead With War Games Despite Pyongyang Anger

The United States and South Korea said Thursday joint war games would go ahead next week despite North Korean claims that the drills were preparations for a preemptive strike on the communist state. The military exercise which feature computer-simulated war scenarios will take place in South Korea from August 22 to September 2, the US-South Korea Combined Forces Command said in a statement.
"It is designed to evaluate and improve combined and joint coordination, procedures, plans and systems for conducting operations critical to the defense of the peninsula," the statement said. It gave no details about the annual drill but previous editions have involved joint mobilisation of an unspecified number of South Korean troops and more than 10,000 US troops. The United States informed North Korea of the exercise last week, prompting Pyongyang to denounce them as "preparations for preemptive attack" on the communist state. The war games were also aimed at forcing North Korea "to accept the unjust demands raised by the US at the six-party talks," North Korea's military spokesman said in a statement on Saturday. Six-country talks on ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programmes went into a three-week recess on August 7 in a deadlock over Pyongyang's insistence on the right to peaceful nuclear activities. The United States flatly rejected the North Korean demand, citing the Stalinist regime's track record of secretly developing nuclear weapons. The talks are to resume in the week of August 29. Rodong Sinmun, the North's ruling communist party newspaper which acts as Pyongyang's official mouthpiece, on Thursday renewed its call for ending the US military presence in South Korea. "Neither peace and reunification of Korea nor peace and security in Northeast Asia and the rest of the world are thinkable as long as the US troops stay in South Korea," Rodong said in a commentary monitored here. About 32,500 US soldiers are stationed here to help 650,000 South Korean military troops face up to North Korea's 1.2-million-strong army. The United States has maintained its military presence in South Korea according to a mutual defense treaty since the 1950-1953 Korean War.