North Korea on Monday called on South Korea to cancel its maritime live-fire drills planned for Tuesday, warning of “stern consequences,” Seoul’s Ministry of National Defense said.
The North’s National Defense Commission sent a fax to the South’s National Security Office in Cheong Wa Dae through the western military communication channel protesting the regular drills in the West Sea near the inter-Korean sea border.
Seoul pushed ahead with the drills in the afternoon.
“Seoul also sent a fax to the North, stressing that the drills in our territorial waters are legitimate ones that we conduct on a regular basis, and that these drills should not affect the plan to hold the reunions of separated families,” ministry spokesperson Kim Min-seok told reporters.
“The drills and the reunions are separate. The drills are aimed at strengthening our defense, whereas the reunions are to be held on a humanitarian level. We are maintaining a robust readiness and if provoked, we will respond strongly.”
The defensive drills came as Seoul and Pyongyang have agreed to hold the reunions of separated families most likely in mid-February before the South Korea-U.S. annual military drills begin in late February.
Last Friday, the North proposed holding the gatherings, which have not been held since 2010 amid strained bilateral ties. The proposal came as the North has stepped up a peace offensive viewed by South Koreans as “deceptive and insincere.”
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)