North Korea demanded Friday that South Korea cancel all joint military drills with the U.S. and stop the deployment of American military assets to the Korean Peninsula.
The U.S. and South Korea decided to delay joint exercises until after the 2018 Winter Olympics to preserve peace on the Korean Peninsula during the Games, but delaying the drills is apparently not good enough for North Korea, which views the training exercises as preparation for an allied invasion of the North. “They should totally stop the military drills, not just delay them,” North Korean propaganda website Uriminzokkiri said Friday.
The decision to delay the drills preceded noteworthy talks between North and South Korea Tuesday, during which the two sides discussed the North’s participation in the Olympics scheduled to be held in February in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as well as opportunities to reduce tensions.
When the South attempted to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program, the North Korean delegation responded critically, warning its southern neighbors to avoid sensitive issues. The North, however, is more than comfortable expressing its concerns with the South’s behavior, asserting that dialogue is not compatible with “war rehearsal.”
“If the South Korean authorities really want detente and peace,” the Rodong Sinmun, the paper of the ruling party, wrote Thursday, “They should first stop all the military acts they have waged with the U.S. against their brethren.”
“The two Koreas cannot remove mutual distrust and confrontation, and move toward unification, under persistent military tensions,” the state-run paper argued, ignoring the fact that its illegal weapons programs are the more serious problem. Instead, the North Korean report demanded that the South stop its “nuclear war exercises” with the U.S.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made similar demands in his New Year’s address, and the North is expected to make the same requests at talks next week.
While it is unclear how South Korea will respond, the U.S. appears to be sticking to its guns. For instance, the U.S. will reportedly conduct two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in February.
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