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NUKEWARS
S. Korea leader offers North 'flexible' engagement
by Staff Writers
Seoul (AFP) March 1, 2013


US, South Korea launch major joint exercises
Seoul (AFP) March 1, 2013 - Thousands of US troops converged on South Korea Friday for the start of annual joint military exercises, a report said, as tensions run high on the peninsula following North Korea's third nuclear test.

A joint air, ground and naval field training exercise known as Foal Eagle will run until April 30, involving more than 10,000 US troops along with a far greater number of South Korean personnel.

"US troops of reinforcement headed off (to South Korea) from the bases in the US, the Pacific and Japan," a military official was quoted as saying by Yonhap news agency. The exercise will involve land, air and landing operations.

AFP was unable immediately to independently confirm the start of the exercise but an earlier announcement from the defence ministry said they would begin on Friday.

Separately, US and South Korean troops will stage a computer-simulated drill named Key Resolve from March 11-21, involving 3,500 US soldiers and 10,000 South Korean troops.

Pyongyang habitually denounces the drills as a rehearsal for invasion but Seoul and Washington insist they are defensive in nature.

South Korean Defence Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok said Thursday that North Korea had been conducting military exercises of its own in recent weeks with greater intensity than previously.

The United States has based troops in the South since the 1950-53 Korean War and the force currently numbers 28,500.

South Korea has staged a series of drills separately or with the United States since the North launched a long-range rocket in December which it followed up with its third nuclear test last month.

North Korea said the test, which sparked international condemnation, was a direct response to UN sanctions imposed on Pyongyang after the rocket launch.

North Korea is already under international sanctions for conducting nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009.

South Korea's new president Park Geun-Hye offered a "more flexible" engagement with North Korea on Friday if Pyongyang chooses a path of trust-building rather than provocation.

In an annual speech marking Korea's 1919 uprising against Japan's colonial rule, Park urged Pyongyang to understand that "nothing will be gained from nuclear development or provocations save for greater isolation and hardship".

Park was inaugurated as South Korea's first woman president on Monday, less than two weeks after North Korea triggered global outrage by conducting its third nuclear test.

"While provocations by the North will be met by stronger counter-responses, the North's willingness to make the right choice and walk the path of change will be answered with more flexible engagement," the president said.

During her election campaign, Park had promised to pursue a trust-building policy with Pyongyang, in contrast to the hardline stance of her predecessor Lee Myung-Bak.

But observers say her immediate options will be limited by the international outcry over the North's nuclear test, which has emboldened the hawks in her ruling conservative party who oppose closer engagement.

Pyongyang has ramped up its bellicose rhetoric in recent weeks, directing dire warnings and threats at both Washington and Seoul as the UN Security Council considers tougher sanctions in response to the test.

Earlier this week, it said South Korea would face "final destruction" if it pushed for a harsh UN resolution, and warned Washington that the US mainland was "well within" the range of its nuclear weapons.

In her speech, Park called on the North to become a "responsible member" of the international community.

"Only then will the path toward shared development by South and North be opened to us and only then will the trust-building process on the Korean Peninsula begin in earnest," she said.

"I urge the North to hasten efforts to normalize inter-Korean relations and open an era of happiness on the Korean Peninsula together with us."

Switching focus to Japan, Park said it was time for Tokyo to assume responsibility for abuses perpetrated during its 1910-45 colonial rule, in order to achieve "genuine" reconciliation between the two neighbors.

"It is incumbent on Japan to have a correct understanding of history and take on an attitude of responsibility in order to partner with us in playing a leading role in East Asia in the 21st century."

While her remarks echoed those made by past South Korean presidents, Park stressed that the historical bitterness between Seoul and Tokyo should not be allowed to fester any longer.

"It is high time for the political leaders of this generation to demonstrate their determination and courage," she said, adding that the "heavy burden of the past" should not be borne by future generations.

"It is necessary for the Japanese government to change unreservedly and behave in a responsible manner," she said.

The two countries are currently navigating the latest flare-up in a bitter and lingering territorial dispute over a small group of islands controlled by South Korea, but also claimed by Japan.

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NUKEWARS
Korean kids lose out after Pyongyang's nuclear test
Yokohama, Japan (AFP) Feb 27, 2013
As the world rushed to condemn North Korea for its nuclear test, the shockwaves from international politics rippled into the daily lives of ethnic Korean children living in Japan. Amid clamour for an effective way to punish a Pyongyang leadership that has proved immune to years of diplomatic pressure, youngsters who have never lived under the regime are bearing the brunt of Japanese anger. ... read more


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