North Korea on Thursday renewed its call for the cancellation of the upcoming South Korea-U.S. military exercises, threatening to rethink Wednesday’s agreement to hold reunions of separated families later this month.
The North’s powerful National Defense Commission also lashed out at the allies for the mobilization on Wednesday of a nuclear-capable B-52 bomber in an exercise over the West Sea, calling for an end to “confrontational” acts.
Seoul’s Defense Ministry said that the allies would carry out their Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises as planned, reiterating that they are annual regular drills and defensive in nature.
“We will not just sit back and watch a situation in which U.S. strategic nuclear aircraft hover around in the sky and underneath it, a play, in which (the South) pushes to build trust (with the North), unfolds,” the North’s commission said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central Television.
“We make it clear that dialogue and the rehearsal for a war of invasion, and reconciliation and confrontational commotion … they cannot be compatible.”
A Seoul official confirmed that one U.S. nuclear bomber, likely from a U.S. military base in Guam, flew over the western island of Jikdo in Gunsan, North Jeolla Province, on Wednesday.
The U.S. military did not deny that the U.S. bomber flew here for an exercise.
“The U.S. Pacific Command has maintained a rotational strategic bomber presence in the region for more than a decade,” it said in a statement.
“These aircraft, and the men and women who fly them, provide a significant capability that enables our readiness and commitment to extended deterrence, provides assurances to our allies, and strengthens regional security.”
The B-52 bomber has engaged in regular drills on the Korean Peninsula several times each year.
Last March, B-52 aircraft was mobilized for a U.S. exercise here, which drew the ire of the North. Pyongyang, at the time, referred to the bomber as a threat to its nation’s “sovereignty and highest dignity.”
The forthcoming South Korea-U.S. drills are to be staged around the time the two Koreas plan to hold the cross-border reunions of separated families from Feb. 20-25.
The allies are to stage their joint Key Resolve command post exercise from late February for less than two weeks, and then the Foal Eagle field training exercise, which is to continue until around mid-April.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)