While Koreans commemorated Liberation Day (15 August), DPRK media outlets have requested the cancelation of the joint US-ROK Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercises which are scheduled to begin on 16 August (Tuesday). An essay in Rodong Sinmun described UFG “extremely provocative northward aggression exercise” and that “the situation on the Korean peninsula is at the crossroads of choice between dialogue and the intensification of confrontation.” Yonhap reports:
North Korea on Saturday repeated its call for the cancellation of an upcoming South Korea-U.S. military drill, saying Seoul was deliberately trying to ruin the atmosphere of dialogue on the Korean Peninsula “in collusion with outside forces.”
South Korea and the U.S. plan to hold their annual joint military exercises, dubbed Ulchi Freedom Guardian, in the Yellow Sea off the west coast of Korea. The South’s defense ministry said the 11-day drills, which kick off Tuesday, will simulate destroying weapons of mass destruction.
Pyongyang’s main Rodong Sinmun newspaper said that the drills “prove that those forces do not want to see detente and peace on the Korean Peninsula.”
“The joint military exercises against the North … would further aggravate the already strained situation on the peninsula and increase the danger of a nuclear war,” a bylined article said.
Earlier this week, the North’s military delegation to the border village of Panmunjom told South Korean and U.S. authorities to cancel the planned exercises, accusing the two allies of hampering the atmosphere of dialogue and escalating tension.
South Korean forces have been on high alert in the area since a North Korean artillery attack killed four people, including two Marines, in November on Yeonpyeong Island near the tense sea border.