South Korea’s military drills, which would take place later in 2019, has upset its neighbor North Korea. Pyongyang’s official newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, on Monday said the drills could undo efforts aimed at a robust diplomatic relation between the two nations.
“It is not something that can be easily overlooked that military authorities in South Korea have conducted war exercises from early this year by mobilizing a huge number of troops,” the North Korean newspaper said in an article, Yonhap reported.”They are a dangerous military action that runs counter to the current trend to move toward our people’s reconciliation, peace and stability,” the daily said.
South Korea and nine other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries would take part in the joint maritime drills scheduled to take place between April 29 and May 13.
Reports have also cast doubt on Japan’s participation in the military drills. The 2019 edition of the ASEAN maritime exercise would be jointly handled by South Korea and Singapore. The drills would begin in Busan, a South Korean port city located in the south-eastern part of the country. It would then move to Singapore. Japan was expected to skip the first half of the exchange which would take place in the Korean peninsula.
North Korea has urged South to stop conducting military drills as it threatens the stability in the Korean peninsula. In this image, South Korea and U.S. ships are seen conducting a joint exercise in the East Sea, Nov. 12, 2017. Photo: South Korean Defense Ministry via Getty Images
According to Rodong Sinmun, South Korea’s proposed increase in military cost and purchase of stealth fighter jets have also irked Pyongyang. It echoed the sentiments of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who during his New Year’s Day address, slammed Seoul for conducting joint military drills with the United States.
In its report, the paper identified South Korea’s ambition to strengthen its defense as the main reason which has soured bilateral relations.
A North Korean propaganda outlet has also warned Seoul against any military confrontation. Uriminzokkiri, the outlet, has said such developments would hinder bilateral progress made during the recent months.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s diplomatic row with Japan deepened Sunday after the former’s commander of navy’s First Fleet cancelled his trip to Tokyo.
Rear Adm. Kim Myung Soo was to visit Japan in February. However, notifying about the development, a South Korean military official told Yonhap, “It is our turn to send our navy officer to Japan. But we have notified Japan of our decision not to send any this year.” Presently, Japan and South Korea have a military exchange program in which senior officers pay a visit to each other’s nation on alternate years, Japan Today reported.
Reports said tensions between the two nations escalated after Japan allegedly conducted a series of flybys near a South Korean vessel. Japan had accused South Korea of meddling in its operations in December, which was downplayed by the latter. According to Japan, a South Korean warship had targeted one of its navy patrol aircraft in the overlap zone, Yonhap reported.
However, Choi Hyun Soo, a spokeswoman for South Korea’s defense ministry, told reporters the final decision for the event would be taken in February.
“Regarding this exercise, the decision on the participating countries and their plans to dispatch ships has yet to be finalized. There will be a meeting in Busan in late February to make the final decision,” she said.
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