S. Korea, U.S. to end annual military drill amid tension

Yonhap News
By Kim Eun-jung
April 29, 2013

South Korea and the United States are set to complete a two-month joint military drill, the Combined Forces Command said Monday, amid high inter-Korean tensions due to the North Korea’s warlike threats and an endangered joint industrial complex in the communist nation.

The Foal Eagle exercise, which began in March after Pyongyang’s Feb. 12 nuclear test that invited additional U.N. sanctions to be slapped against the isolated nation, has heightened tension on the Korean Peninsula as the communist country angrily responded to the exercise that involved nuclear-capable bombers and stealth F-22 jets sent from overseas U.S. bases. The exercise officially ends Tuesday.

Although Pyongyang has routinely called the annual training a rehearsal for a northward invasion, its rhetoric turned more hostile this year under young leader Kim Jong-un, even threatening nuclear strikes against the South and the U.S.

In early March, the North announced that it had nullified the 60-year-old armistice agreement that ended the Korean War, though Seoul and the U.N. said the pact cannot be discarded unilaterally.

Further raising tensions, Pyongyang in early April barred South Korean workers from entering the Kaesong industrial complex, leading Seoul to pull its workers from the site after Pyongyang rejected its ultimatum to join formal negotiations on restarting the stalled operations.

Built in 2004 just north of the border, the industrial complex has served as a rare symbol of inter-Korea cooperation and a valued source of hard currency for the impoverished North.

In response to the exercise, the North has placed two intermediate-range Musudan missiles and several other Scud missiles on its east coast and hidden them in underground facilities since early April, sparking speculations that it may conduct a provocative launch. …

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