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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korean officials recently urged South Korea to stop joint military drills with the U.S. “forever,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Wednesday.
The statement came following a meeting in Pyongyang by representatives from the DPRK government, political parties, and organizations, aimed at implementing the task of national reunification called for by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during his New Year speech.
“They underscored the need to create a peaceful environment on the Korean Peninsula before anything else this year,” a statement, carried by the KCNA, read.
The participants reportedly adopted “an appeal to all Koreans at home and abroad,” describing 2018 as a “meaningful year” for inter-Korean relations amid the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and September’s 70th anniversary of the DPRK’s founding.
They called for the suspension of joint ROK-U.S. military drills, as well as the withdrawal of United States Forces Korea (USFK) from the peninsula.
“There is no reason that the U.S. hideous nuclear strategic assets and aggressive armed forces remain in South Korea today at a time when the door for North-South dialogue opens and the important issues of the nation are seriously discussed,” the KCNA said in a Korean-language dispatch.
“Let us more strongly engage in the struggle to terminate the inside and outside warmongers’ every kind of dangerous nuclear war maneuvers of invading the DPRK forever.”
The DPRK reiterated its stance that the two Koreas “can’t expect a bright future of improving the North-South relations” if the “acute military tensions” caused by joint exercises continue on the peninsula.
The two Koreas should solve the inter-Korean relations with the view that the issue is an “internal matter of our nation,” the statement added, saying they should “smash the moves of the separatist forces at home and abroad,” and that Pyongyang’s “bold and leading efforts” were responsible for the renewed talks.
Senior officials, including chairman of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country Ri Son Gwon and Director of United Front Department of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Kim Yong Chol, participated in the meeting.
While joint conferences by the government, political parties, and organizations are typically held in the aftermath of major speeches by Kim Jong Un, but the explicit call for the end of the ROK-U.S. joint military drills, particularly amid inter-Korean talks, is notable.
Seoul and Washington earlier in the month agreed to postpone the exercises until after the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics as part of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s plans to hold a “peace Olympics” on the peninsula.
Since the North agreed to participate in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics, the country has called for Seoul to put a stop to joint military drills entirely through various state-run media outlets, warning that they may jeopardize ongoing talks.
The South Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND) said last week that Pyongyang could ask Seoul to stop U.S.-ROK joint military drills in exchange for its participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics as part of a broader attempt to drive a wedge between the allies.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis is set to hold a meeting with his South Korean counterpart Song Young-moo Friday afternoon in Hawaii, the South Korean MND announced on Thursday.
Both sides are expected to share views on the security situation on the Korean peninsula and hold an “in-depth discussion over various pending issues of the ROK-U.S. alliance” including the transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON).
When asked whether joint military exercises will be on the agenda during the discussions, spokesperson for ministry Choi Hyun-soo told media that the allies’ position remained the same.
“The joint ROK-U.S. military exercises will be staged normally after the [PyeongChang] Paralympics finish,” Choi said.
The PyeongChang Winter Paralympics will take place between March 8 and 18 this year.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM)
North Korean officials recently urged South Korea to stop joint military drills with the U.S. “forever," the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Wednesday.
The statement came following a meeting in Pyongyang by representatives from the DPRK government, political parties, and organizations, aimed at implementing the task of national