ROK says no decision yet over annual military exercise with US
The Republic of Korea (ROK)'s defense ministry said Monday that no decision had been made yet over the joint annual military exercise with the United States this summer.
Boo Seung-chan, defense ministry spokesman, told an online press briefing that nothing was finalized yet over how, when and on which scale the annual ROK-US command post exercise would be conducted, saying it would be decided by the authorities of the Republic of Korea and the United States.
The combined forces of the Republic of Korea and the United States have annually staged the summertime command post drills around mid-August, which the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) denounced as a dress rehearsal for invasion.
Boo said Seoul and Washington were in close consultations over the issue taking into account the overall situations, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the combined defense posture, the transfer of the wartime operational control, and the support for diplomatic efforts to establish lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Kim Yo Jong, the DPRK's vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, said in a statement Sunday night that the ROK-US joint military drills are "an undesirable prelude" which beclouds the way ahead of the DPRK-ROK relations.
Kim noted that the restoration of the inter-Korean communication lines should not be taken as anything more than just the "physical reconnection."
On July 27, the ROK and the DPRK restored their cross-border communication channels that had been severed for over a year, raising expectations for a conciliatory mood between the two Koreas.
Lee Jong-joo, spokesperson of the ROK unification ministry in charge of inter-Korean relations, told a press briefing that the ministry will continue efforts to deal with the ROK-US military drills in a wise and flexible manner so as not to escalate military tensions on the peninsula.
An unnamed high-ranking official of the unification ministry told local reporters last week that it would be "desirable" to delay the summertime joint military exercise given the pandemic resurgence and the need to engage the DPRK.
Regarding the restored inter-Korean communication hotlines, the spokesperson said it was a starting point to restore the long-severed inter-Korean relations and trust, noting that the government will gradually enhance relations with the DPRK to let the restored hotlines lead to the resumed inter-Korean dialogue.
According to the spokesperson, the ROK proposed last week to the DPRK discussing ways to set up the system for virtual talks between the two Koreas. Pyongyang had yet to respond to the proposal.
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