N. Korea demands halt to South-US military drills, threatens with 'unimaginable holocaust'
“We sternly warn the US and the South Korean authorities to stop the dangerous military exercises which may push the situation on the peninsula and the north-south ties to a catastrophe,” said the spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea (CPRK) in a statement, reported [North Korea’s] KCNA state news.
The US and South Korea, which have shared the cost of hosting American soldiers since 1991, are planning to stage military exercises late February. The annual drills such as ‘Key Resolve’ and ‘Ulchi-Freedom-Guardian’, staged by Seoul and Washington, focus on defending the South from attacks, including possible ones from the North.
This year the US even decided to boost its military presence in South Korea, pledging to send another 800 troops in addition to those 28,000 which are already in the country. The personnel and equipment from the 1st US Cavalry Division will serve in South Korea for nine months.
However, all the equipment will stay and be used by other US soldiers rotating in. Also this year Seoul has struck a five-year $866.5 million deal with the US to cover the costs the troops.
South Korea responded to the North’s recent statement, saying the drills are going ahead as planned despite the threat.
The South “will sternly retaliate against North Korean provocations,” Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said in a regular briefing, reports South Korea's Yonhap news agency.
"If North Korea actually commits military aggression on the excuse of what is a normal exercise we conduct as preparation for emergency, our military will mercilessly and decisively punish them," he says, as quoted by Reuters.
There have been long-spiking tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The Korean War ended in 1953 by the Korean Armistice Agreement, which was signed by UN Command (UNC), North Korea and the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army. South Korea did not participate in signing the deal. So Seoul is still technically at war with Pyongyang.
Last year, a Korean crisis brought a new wave of tensions between the neighbors. That happened after Pyongyang launched a satellite and later tested its nuclear weapons. The UN Security Council condemned the North’s actions.
March last year during Foal Eagle, annual drills conducted between South Korea and the US, North Korea declared a 'state of war' with its southern neighbor. Pyongyang also warned it would retaliate against any provocations by the US and South Korea without "any prior notice."
The tensions continued the whole last year. In October Pyongyang urged Washington to stop their military drills, which was described as "nuclear blackmail."