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Unification ministry stresses wise, flexible approach to joint military drills after N. Korea's warning

All News 11:43 August 02, 2021

By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, Aug. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will deal with the issue of joint military drills with the United States in a "wise and "flexible" manner so as to not heighten tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the unification ministry said Monday after North Korea warned against such exercises.

On Sunday night, Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, warned that annual summertime military drills between South Korea and the U.S. will cloud inter-Korean relations and that Pyongyang will closely watch whether South Korea will go ahead with "hostile war exercises."

"The unification ministry has consistently worked in a wise and flexible manner based on the stance that South Korea-U.S. joint military drills should not be used as a chance to heighten tensions on the Korean Peninsula under any circumstances," Lee Jong-joo, the ministry's spokesperson, told reporters.

"Efforts will be made in that direction going forward," she added.

South Korea and the U.S. are likely to hold the annual summertime joint military exercise sometime this month. Seoul's defense ministry earlier said that the allies are discussing when and how to stage the exercise.

North Korea has long denounced Seoul and Washington's military drills as a rehearsal for an invasion of the North. The allies say that the exercises are defensive in nature.

A high-ranking unification ministry official in Seoul recently told reporters that it is "desirable" for South Korea and the U.S. to suspend their summertime military exercise, citing the global coronavirus pandemic and the need to engage North Korea.

On Tuesday, North Korea restored communication lines with South Korea more than a year after cutting them off in protest of anti-Pyongyang leaflets sent from the South. The move raised hope for the resumption of long-stalled cross-border dialogue, including the possibility of summit talks.

Via the restored communication line, the ministry recently proposed discussing ways to set up a virtual conference system for inter-Korean talks. The spokesperson said that the North has yet to provide answers to the offer, the spokesperson said.

Lee Jong-joo, spokeswoman of the unification ministry, speaks during a press conference at the government complex in Seoul on July 27, 2021, about the reopening the same day of direct cross-border communications between the two Koreas. (Yonhap)

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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