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S. Korea urges NK to end provocations as allies start military drills

South Korea's unification ministry on Monday urged North Korea to suspend its provocations and come to the negotiation table as Pyongyang warned against Seoul and Washington's annual joint military drills.

The Ministry of Unification said that any unusual movements by North Korea have not been detected.

"The Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills are the allies' annual and defensive exercises. We are urging North Korea to stop its provocations and return to the negotiation table as soon as possible," Baik Tae-hyun, ministry spokesman, told a press briefing.

This photo taken on Aug. 21, 2017, shows Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman at South Korea`s unification ministry, speaking at a press briefing. (Yonhap)
This photo taken on Aug. 21, 2017, shows Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman at South Korea`s unification ministry, speaking at a press briefing. (Yonhap)

The allies kicked off the UFG exercises Monday, which will run until Aug. 31, mobilizing some 17,500 US servicemen and about 50,000 South Korean forces. Pyongyang has denounced the drills as a rehearsal for a northern invasion.

North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper warned Sunday that the drills are "the most explicit expression of hostility" against it and an act of "adding fuel to the fire" on the divided peninsula.

Tensions between Pyongyang and Washington heightened after US President Donald Trump and the North Korean leadership traded bellicose rhetoric, with both floating talk of military options.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week held off on threats to fire missiles toward the US territory of Guam in the Pacific.

But he added that he will make an "important" decision if the US continues its "extremely dangerous reckless actions" on the Korean Peninsula, apparently referring to the UFG exercises.

An image captured from footage aired by North Korea`s TV broadcaster on Aug. 20, 2017, shows the slogan that says that South Korea is the North`s main enemy displayed at a renovated center for propaganda education in North Korea`s northern Jagang Province. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)
An image captured from footage aired by North Korea`s TV broadcaster on Aug. 20, 2017, shows the slogan that says that South Korea is the North`s main enemy displayed at a renovated center for propaganda education in North Korea`s northern Jagang Province. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

At a renovated center for propaganda education in North Korea's northern province, North Korea displayed a slogan that says South Korea is its main enemy, according to footage aired by the country's state broadcaster Sunday.

It is rare for such a propaganda slogan to emerge as Pyongyang publicly states that the US is its main rival. It is not known whether the North uses the catchphrase in other places.

South Korea defined North Korea as the main enemy in its 1995-2000 defense paper but in 2004 under the government of liberal President Roh Moo-hyun, Seoul replaced it with North Korea's existing military threat.

South Korea called the North an enemy for the first time in 2010 under the conservative Lee Myung-bak government, and has kept that expression since then. (Yonhap)

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