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S. Korea defends joint marine drill with US against N. Korea's criticism

South Korea's defense authorities made clear Monday that Seoul will continue the ongoing joint marine exercise with the United States, countering North Korea's claim that the exercises amount to a breach of a recent military agreement between the Koreas.

Last week, the allies resumed the Korea Marine Exercise Program involving US Marines from Okinawa, Japan, and such military equipment as amphibious assault vehicles, ending a six-month pause.


The Ministry of National Defense stressed the two-week battalion-level practice has been held annually.

It's an "exercise defensive in nature" and South Korea will continue it this year, the ministry's spokesperson, Choi Hyun-soo, said at a press briefing.

Earlier in the day, the North's official newspaper denounced the resumption of the training.

The Rodong Sinmun, the organ of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, said in an editorial that South Korea and the US should "behave reasonably" and abstain from "anachronistic" military acts that could undermine dialogue and peace on the Korean Peninsula.

The North's newspaper said the resumption of the KMEP runs counter to the Sept. 19 military agreement that calls for eliminating dangers of war throughout the peninsula and terminating cross-border hostility.

Last Friday, Pyongyang's external propaganda website Meari ran a similar commentary, saying the joint drill threatens peace and prosperity on the peninsula and any form of military exercise should never be permitted.

The KMEP, which was halted six months ago to promote denuclearization and peace on the peninsula, has been restarted, as the allies are reportedly determined to keep up small-scale drills to maintain their joint defense posture.

Watchers say Pyongyang's condemnation of even a small-scale military drill is interpreted as an intent to strengthen its position in negotiations with the US and South Korea. (Yonhap)