North Korea has repeatedly called on South Korea to halt the joint drills scheduled from late February to April, the Yonhap News Agency reported. While U.S. and South Korean officials said the drills are routine and defensive in nature, North Korean leaders have voiced suspicions that the exercises could be a prelude to war.
Sue Mi Terry, a former CIA analyst on North Korea, said she thinks the latest comments from North Korea's leaders are laying the groundwork for future provocations.
North Korea "can use the joint exercises as an excuse for future provocations, such as missile or nuclear tests or a limited attack against South Korea," she said in an email to Yonhap.
Late Thursday, North Korea's National Defense Commission proposed an end to the sniping between the two Koreas, holding out the possibility of reunions of families separated by the Korean War in the 1950s.
South Korea has urged North Korea not to tie family reunions to the military drills, calling the family reunions an urgent humanitarian issue because most of the separated family members are in their 70s and 80s.
Kim Eui-do, a spokesman for the Unification Ministry that handles inter-Korean relations, said South Korea would monitor whether North Korea acts on its offer to halt the slandering.
"Our military drills are annual defensive drills conducted by a sovereign country," Kim said Friday. "The North should take responsible steps for its past provocations instead of taking issue with our legitimate military drills."
In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney also dismissed North Korea's demand.