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China Daily Website

ROK, US launch annual drills despite warning

Updated: 2012-02-28 07:57
By Jung Ha-Won ( China Daily)

SEOUL - The Republic of Korea and the United States launched major annual military exercises on Monday, as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea said it was ready for war over what it termed a reckless provocation.

"The reckless war drills targeting the army and people of the DPRK, who are in the mourning period, amount to a grave provocation," said a DPRK Foreign Ministry spokesman, referring to the death of leader Kim Jong-il.

The spokesman denounced the timing of the exercises, days after US and DPRK officials held talks in Beijing. Pyongyang "is fully ready for both dialogue and war", he told the Korean Central News Agency.

The Key Resolve exercise which began on Monday is a 12-day drill largely involving computer-simulated war games, while Foal Eagle from March 1 to April 30 involves field training for air, ground and naval forces.

The US military said in a statement the DPRK had been informed a month ago of the exercise dates and "the non-provocative nature of this training".

But the news agency, in a separate comment earlier on Monday, described the drills as "an unpardonable infringement upon the sovereignty and dignity" of the DPRK while it is still mourning Kim.

"The army and people of the DPRK are fully ready to fight a war with them," it said, warning Seoul and Washington of possible "catastrophic consequences".

The country's National Defense Commission on Saturday denounced the drills as a "silent declaration of war".

The DPRK has taken a tough tone with the ROK since Kim died on Dec 17 and was replaced by his youngest son Kim Jong-un.

The new leader has been appointed armed forces chief and has visited several units.

Kim Jong-un inspected two army battalions at a base near the border with the ROK, state media said on Sunday, adding that one of them had staged the shelling of an ROK island in November 2010, in which four people were killed.

The leader ordered "a powerful retaliatory strike" if Monday's drills intrude on the DPRK's territory, it said.

The ROK's military has strengthened monitoring of the DPRK's activities to guard against potential attacks, Yonhap News Agency reported.

It said RF-4 and U-2 reconnaissance aircraft would be fully mobilized and F-15K fighter jets would be on emergency standby.

Artillery units near the land border would also stand ready to immediately hit back if attacked, it said.

Agence France-Presse