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South Korea defends joint military exercises after North Korea complaint

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea defends joint military exercises after North Korea complaint
South Korea Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo (R) meets with Adm. Philip Davidson (L), commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command in Seoul on Thursday. The two nations’ militaries conducted joint drills this month. File Photo courtesy of Republic of Korea Ministry of Defense

Nov. 12 (UPI) -- South Korea's defense ministry said joint exercises with the United States are not a violation of inter-Korea military agreements, after North Korea state media denounced the training.

Choi Hyun-soo, a spokeswoman for the South Korean military, told reporters on Monday at a regular press briefing there are no plans to stop the drills, despite North Korean complaints, Newsis reported.

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"Battalion-level training has been conducted annually and it is for defense purposes," Choi said. "We intend to continue with them this year."

The defense ministry added there are no plans to stop the training, following the cancellation of Ulchi Freedom Guardian and Vigilant Ace exercises in 2018.

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Pyongyang's Workers' Party newspaper Rodong Sinmun stated Monday the militaries of the United States and South Korea resumed training Nov. 5.

"It is illogical to give the pretext of 'regular training' for the restart of marine corps joint training, after suspending exercises for six months," the Rodong stated. "The war exercises where U.S. Marine Corps from Japan are in participation, are a threat to the easing of tensions and peace. It is an anachronistic military move."

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The Korea Marine Exercise Program involves about 500 troops from South Korea's Marine Corps and the US III Marine Expeditionary Force stationed in Okinawa, Japan.

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North Korea has become more vocal in its criticism of South Korea policy as the United States refuses to ease sanctions against the country.

In the same issue of the Rodong on Monday, North Korea condemned the "wicked sanctions of the hostile forces."

"A tremendous battle of creation is being waged at this moment without pause" despite the embargoes, including construction at Samjiyon County near Mount Paektu, the paper stated.

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North Korea has said it plans to complete construction at Samjiyon by October 2020, to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Workers' Party, according to South Korean news service News 1.

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