This photo downloaded from the US Air Force website on Tuesday, shows a E-3 Sentry aircraft. (US Air Force website)
Nearly 400 local and foreign civic groups on Thursday urged South Korea and the United States to suspend joint military drills as a "major confidence-building measure" toward North Korea.
A total of 387 organizations, including 197 South Korean civic groups, made the appeal weeks after North Korea demanded an end to such combined military exercises during a recent party congress.
"Suspending these costly and highly provocative war exercises will be a crucial step toward re-starting genuine diplomacy with North Korea," they said in a joint statement.
"It will remove a formidable obstacle to a peaceful resolution of the ongoing 70-year-old Korean War and allow all parties to focus on other intractable global issues facing our nations today, such as creating a nuclear weapons-free world and resolving the current COVID-19 pandemic," they added. "We want peace talks, not war drills and military confrontation."
The civic groups noted that suspending the combined military exercises will serve as a "major confidence-building measure" that will help kick-start diplomacy and achieve lasting peace and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
Seoul and Washington have held combined military exercises on a regular basis, and the springtime one is supposed to be staged around March.
North Korea has long demanded an end to such drills. Leader Kim Jong-un renewed the demand during a recent congress of the ruling Workers' Party, citing it as a crucial matter to improve cross-border ties, and also urged Washington to give up its hostile policy toward Pyongyang.
South Korea has said that it is willing to discuss the matter through a joint military committee with the North.
At a press conference on Monday, Unification Minister Lee In-young expressed hope for a "wise" and "flexible" solution on whether to hold joint military drills with the US so that the issue will not cause serious tensions on the Korean Peninsula. (Yonhap)