August 22, 2017 10:43
South Korea and the U.S. kicked off annual joint exercises on Monday aimed at checking the civilian, government, and military emergency preparedness.
"The exercises are defensive drills conducted annually. We have no intention at all of increasing tensions on the Korean Peninsula," President Moon Jae-in said in a Cabinet meeting at Cheong Wa Dae. He warned that the North should not "distort our efforts to keep peace" or "use the exercises as a pretext for aggravating the situation."
Last year, the North test-fired a submarine-launched ballistic missile two days before the exercises started. As usual, it warned the exercises will "worsen the situation just like adding fuel to fire."
"The door is always open to dialogue for a peaceful solution," Moon said. "We hope that the North will stop further provocations and participate in the process of keeping peace on the Korean Peninsula."
He added, "The North must realize that it is because of its repeated provocations that South Korea and the U.S. have to conduct joint defensive drills, which in turn keeps the vicious cycle going."
Prior to the Cabinet meeting, Moon also chaired a meeting of the National Security Council. "The North has continued its attempt to perfect nuclear weapons and missiles by test-firing missiles 12 times this year alone," he told participants, "The government and military should be thoroughly prepared to respond strongly to any provocation from the North."
Three top U.S. military leaders observed the exercises at an underground bunker at South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command in a suburb of Seoul and at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province.
Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, promised Defense Minister Song Young-moo that the U.S. will "effectively offer strategic assets and missile defense means for the defense of the ally."
The exercises, which are largely based on computer simulations, go ahead as the Pentagon ordered a temporary halt to all naval operations around the world after another one of its warships was involved in a collision in the Singapore Strait.
The USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in the early hours of Monday morning, leaving 10 sailors missing and five injured.
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com