N. Korea says it is ready for both dialogue and war
SEOUL, Feb. 27 (Yonhap) — North Korea said Monday it is fully ready for both dialogue and war as South Korea and the United States kicked off joint military drills that Pyongyang claims are rehearsals for a northward invasion.
The Key Resolve, which will last through March 9, involves about 200,000 South Korean troops and 2,900 U.S. troops, according to the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command.
Separately, the two allies plan to hold the Foal Eagle joint military exercise from March 1 to April 30.
South Korea and the U.S. regularly hold military exercises to bolster their readiness against a possible North Korean invasion. Seoul and Washington say the exercises are defensive in nature.
However, the North, which has a track record of military provocations against South Korea, routinely condemns the military drills in the South as precursors for an invasion.
“The big exercises for aggression against the (North) are escalating the tensions in and around the Korean Peninsula beyond a danger line,” the North’s Foreign Ministry said in an English-language statement carried by the country’s official Korean Central News Agency.
The statement repeated Pyongyang’s accusation that the exercises are a grave provocation, saying the North is still in the mourning period over the December death of its longtime leader Kim Jong-il.
North Korea is “fully ready for both dialogue and war,” the statement said as it warned that the U.S. would be left with no space for holding military exercises on the Korean Peninsula if it provokes North Korea.
The latest warning came days after North Korea and the U.S. held the first high-level talks in Beijing on Pyongyang’s nuclear programs since Kim’s demise.
Chief U.S. negotiator Glyn Davies has reported “a little bit of progress,” while downplaying expectations of any immediate deal with the North’s new regime under new leader Kim Jong-un, the youngest son of the late Kim.
North Korea’s top negotiator Kim Kye-gwan returned home on Monday from Beijing, the KCNA said in a separate dispatch. No details of the talks were given.
Kim, the North’s leader, has instructed the military to “make a powerful retaliatory strike” at South Korea if Seoul intrudes even slightly into the North’s waters.
Kim made the comment during his recent trip to front-line military units responsible for the deadly shelling of a South Korean island in 2010, according to the KCNA.
On Saturday, Pyongyang vowed to launch a “sacred war” against the South and the U.S.
About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in an armistice, rather than a peace treaty.