North strongly protests new Key Resolve joint exercises

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North strongly protests new Key Resolve joint exercises

North Korea strongly denounced the joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises yesterday, a day after a spokesman for the North’s representative negotiators at the truce village of Panmunjom issued a verbal warning, calling the drill a preparation for war.

The Korean People’s Army said in a statement released via the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency that it ordered all its army, naval and air force personnel to be placed on combat readiness to repel enemies if they intrude into the country. The Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises got underway yesterday and will go on until March 18.

The statement said all North Korean military forces will defend the front line faithfully so that they can defeat adversaries who attempt to strike pre-emptively. The order from the People’s Army is the most justifiable self-defense measure to take, said the statement. The North issued the same kind of directions to its military to engage in combat-ready posture last year in March when Key Resolve began.

The North also ordered all its troops and people to be on full alert during Ulchi Focus Lens last August. “We have not spotted any unusual military movement from the communist country and view its verbal warning as something merely conventional,” said Won Tae-jae, spokesman for the Defense Ministry in Seoul. The Combined Forces Command had informed Pyongyang of the exercise dates and the defensive nature of the exercise last month. Despite the alert, Pyongyang did not impose restrictions on the inter-Korean border traffic or cut off military communications with Seoul, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said. Last year, the North cut off communications and restricted the passage to a joint industrial park in the city of Kaesong on the day the joint drills began. In February and on Sunday, Pyongyang threatened to take military action if Seoul and Washington went ahead with their drills and said it would further strengthen its nuclear deterrence. The North declared on Sunday that it will suspend denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and cut off military communications with both the South and U.S.

Key Resolve is designed to improve the efficiency of U.S. reinforcements that would defend South Korea in emergencies.

By Kim Min-seok, Lee Min-yong []
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