News / Asia

    North Korea Threatens to Cancel Family Reunions

    South Korean Yun Sang-in, left, kisses his North Korean elder brother Yun Tae Young on the last day of the three-day Separated Family Reunion Meetings at Diamond Mountain in North Korea, Nov. 1, 2010.
    South Korean Yun Sang-in, left, kisses his North Korean elder brother Yun Tae Young on the last day of the three-day Separated Family Reunion Meetings at Diamond Mountain in North Korea, Nov. 1, 2010.
    VOA News
    North Korea is threatening to cancel its just-announced family reunions with the South if Seoul and Washington go ahead with upcoming joint military drills.

    The threat comes a day after Pyongyang and Seoul agreed to hold reunions later this month between families separated by the 1950s Korean War, in a rare sign of inter-Korean cooperation.

    On state television Thursday, the North's National Defense Commission was quoted as saying the war drills are incompatible with improved inter-Korean relations, stating, "We're clearly stating that dialogue and invasive war practices can never co-exist, just as reconciliation and conflict can't [co-exist]."

    War games

    North Korea has for weeks called for the U.S. to cancel its Foal Eagle and Key Resolve war drills set for later this month, viewing them as preparation to invade.

    The North's statement also slammed the U.S. for allegedly deploying B-52 bombers in South Korea on Wednesday while the talks between Seoul and Pyongyang were being held.

    The U.S. has not commented on the North Korean allegation about the B-52s, which have been used in the past during routine military drills over South Korea, but the South's Yonhap news agency quoted a Seoul military source as saying one of the bombers was flown on a training exercise Wednesday.

    Kim Min-seok, a spokesman for South Korea's Defense Ministry, insists Seoul is standing firm, and will not cancel this month's war drills.

    "Key Resolve and Foal Eagle are annual defensive exercises for the defense of the Korean peninsula. So the exercises will go ahead as usual apart from the reunion of the separated families," said Kim.

    Many fear the war games will give North Korea an opportunity to back out of the family reunions, which have not been held since 2010.
     
    Bargaining chip?


    Stephen Noerper with the New York-based Korea Society told VOA there has always been a risk that North Korea would withdraw.
     
    "Some feel that North Korea may be using this as a bargaining chip in that the reunions are scheduled now for February 20-25 and those South Korea-U.S. military exercises are due to begin at the end of the month," said Noerper.
     
    Both sides also agreed to resume the family meetings last year, but North Korea canceled at the last minute, citing the South's "hostility."
     
    However, South Korean officials on Wednesday said they had received assurances that Pyongyang would follow through this time.
     
    David Straub, of the Korean Studies Program at Stanford University, told VOA that may be the case, if North Korea feels enough pressure from China, its biggest ally, as well as the U.S., Japan and South Korea.
     
    "It may very well be that the North Korean leadership is feeling the need to get a little flexibility and show a nicer side for a while so they can get one or more of these states to start playing 'footsie' with them again," said Straub.
     
    Since the family reunions began in 2000, about 18,000 Koreans have been temporarily reunited.
     
    However, many more Koreans, many of whom are aging, are anxious for the program to resume, as they are unable even to exchange letters or phone calls with their relatives.
     
    If this month's reunions take place, they will be held from February 20-25 at the Mount Kumgang resort on North Korea's east coast.
     
    VOA's Victor Beattie contributed to this report.

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora