SEOUL, June 6 (Yonhap) -- Unification Minister Lee In-young called Sunday for "maximum flexibility" in deciding what to do with joint military exercises with the United States set for August, saying such drills should never serve as a chance to cause additional tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Lee said on KBS TV's "Sunday Diagnosis Live" that additional consideration should be given to how to deal with the upcoming combined military exercises at a time when the new U.S. policy on Pyongyang has shaped up and a willingness for dialogue is being talked about.
"While comprehensively taking several circumstances into consideration, we should make a final decision on what to do with the combined exercises scheduled for August," Lee said, referring to such factors as the coronavirus pandemic and a need for such exercises to regain the wartime operation control from the U.S.
"But one obvious thing is that combined exercises should never work in a way that causes or further escalates tensions on the Korean Peninsula," he said. "Our government should carry out a policy coordination process with maximum flexibility, and I also hope North Korea will show flexibility."
North Korea has long denounced joint military drills between the U.S. and the South as a rehearsal for invasion. In recent years, Seoul and Washington have called off or scaled back some of the drills due in part to the pandemic and also as part of efforts to give diplomacy more of a chance.
Lee also called for exercising flexibility on sanctions implementation as a catalyst to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.
" I think we can be flexible in our use of sanctions as a catalyst to get North Korea back to denuclearization negotiations at an early date," he said, adding that sanctions can be eased first on noncommercial sectors, such as railways and roads, depending on progress in denuclearization.
N. Korea's suspension from Olympics augurs ill for Seoul's peace efforts
IOC suspension of N. Korea latest wrinkle in inter-Korean sports cooperation
Hotline restoration raises hopes for inter-Korean summit, resumption of nuclear talks
N. Korea's withdrawal from Tokyo Olympics dampens hope for renewing inter-Korean sports cooperation
Sino-U.S. tensions, tighter China-N.K. ties feared to weaken denuke efforts