Report: U.S., South Korea to Skip Military Exercises
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ The United States and South Korea will skip their annual joint military exercises next year as an incentive for North Korea to accept nuclear inspections, a report said today.
The national Yonhap news agency, quoting an unidentified high-ranking government official, said South Korea would inform North Korea of the decision at a border meeting on Monday.
But National Unification Minister Han Wan-sang told parliament today that no formal decision has been made on whether to hold the 1994 ″Team Spirit″ exercises.
The report comes as pressure mounted on Communist North Korea to accept outside inspections of its nuclear facilities. The United States has warned that it would push the Security Council to impose sanctions unless the North backs down.
A permanent halt to the joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises is one of the key North Korean demands for easing its hard-line stand on nuclear inspections.
Yonhap said the United States and South Korea will formally halt next year’s Team Spirit exercises when their defense secretaries, Les Aspin and Kwon Young-hae, meet in Seoul Nov. 3-4 for talks.
North Korea has cut off all dialogue with its southern capitalist rival recently to protest the exercises, denouncing them as preparations for nuclear war. Seoul and Washington say the exercises, an annual event since 1976, are purely for defensive purposes.
Earlier this month, North Korea declared that it would no longer talk with the International Atomic Energy Agency on nuclear inspections, accusing it of being biased. It instead said it would negotiate only with the United States.
In a separate dispatch from Washington, Yonhap said the United States and North Korea have held a series of informal working talks in New York in the past week to try to break the deadlock.
Quoting unnamed sources in Washington, Yonhap said North Korea indicated in a recent meeting with the United States that it would permit outside visits to its nuclear facilities if certain conditions are met.
Past North Korean demands included a permanent halt to the exercises and financial aid for its purchase of new nuclear reactors for power generation.