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(LEAD) Minister concerned about timing of S. Korea-U.S. war games

All Headlines 11:34 November 30, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with remarks on N. Korea's ICBM technology in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, Nov. 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's point man on North Korea expressed concern Thursday about the expected overlap between the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games and annual South Korea-U.S. war games that Pyongyang has long protested with provocative acts and rhetoric.

"As the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and the South Korea-U.S. military exercise happen to coincide with each other, how to resolve this situation is an important task," Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said at a Seoul forum.

If the North provokes again at a time when the Olympic Games are imminent, he added, it may deal a "fatal" blow to the mood for the sports festival, which will be held in South Korea from Feb. 9-25 in the mountainous resort town of PyeongChang, 80 kilometers south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The Paralympics are scheduled from March 9-19 in the same location.

"What's most important is to host the PyeongChang Olympics in a stable atmosphere," he said.

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon is seen in this file photo. (Yonhap)

The allies have not announced the start date for the major exercises, named Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, but they usually kick off the war games in late February or early March.

The North has long described the drills as a rehearsal for invasion and used them as an excuse for provocations.

Defense sources said earlier that South Korea may request that the U.S. postpone the training to avoid an overlap with Olympic events.

The minister was doubtful about the secretive communist nation's claim that it has completed the nuclear weapons development.

Emboldened by the successful launch of what it claims to be a new intercontinental ballistic missile Wednesday, the North announced that it has completed the establishment of the country's "nuclear force."

Cho said the government's view is that it might be a "hasty" declaration.

"Until recently, there were indications that North Korea has faced limits in connection with atmospheric re-entry technology, guiding and sending (an ICBM) to an intended point, and blowing up (the warhead) at a timing it wants," he added.


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