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N. Korea Condemns Planned South, US Military Exercises - 2004-03-09


North Korea's official media is condemning U.S. and South Korean plans for joint military exercises later this month. The exercises coincide with ongoing efforts to get Pyongyang to eliminate its nuclear weapons capability.

North Korea's official Communist Party newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, accused the United States Tuesday of preparing for a "new war behind the curtain of talks." Earlier Tuesday, U.S. and South Korean military officials announced plans for a week-long military drill commencing March 22.

A spokesman for U.S. forces in Korea says the exercises will be defense-oriented, but will involve the 37,000 U.S. personnel stationed in South Korea, along with 5,000 others deployed to Asia-Pacific bases.

The announcement comes at a sensitive diplomatic juncture between the U.S., the two Koreas, and negotiating partners China, Japan, and Russia. The six parties are trying to negotiate an end to North Korea's nuclear weapons capability.

North Korean media said Friday the United States should stop what it called "military rackets" if it truly seeks a solution to the nuclear issue.

But some analysts say the joint U.S. South Korean exercises probably won't damage negotiations over the North Korean nuclear issue. Brendan Taylor is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Strategic and Defense Studies Center at Australian National University. "I think it's one of those parts of the world where deterrence seems to be functioning quite successfully," says Mr. Taylor. "So I think in that context that the show of force will probably, if not strengthen, it certainly won't weaken the U.S. bargaining position I don't think."

The United States says it has no intention of attacking North Korea. Washington says it will not offer Pyongyang any concessions until it "completely, verifiably and irreversibly" ends all of its nuclear activities.

North Korea says it will only end those activities in exchange for substantial economic aid and a formal U.S. security guarantee. On Monday, Pyongyang threatened it would add a withdrawal of all 37,000 U.S. troops from South Korea to that list of demands.

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