News

Voice of America
3/6/97
U-S / KOREA MILITARY EXERCISE
BYLINE=CHRIS SIMKINS
DATELINE=HONG KONG

INTRO: FOR THE FOURTH YEAR IN A ROW THE UNITED STATES AND SOUTH KOREA HAVE CALLED OFF THEIR ANNUAL LARGE- SCALE MILITARY EXERCISES KNOWN AS "TEAM SPIRIT." VOA CORRESPONDENT CHRIS SIMKINS REPORTS FROM OUR ASIA NEWS CENTER THE ANNOUNCEMENT COMES AS THE TWO SIDES TRY TO PERSUADE NORTH KOREA TO JOIN FOUR PARTY PEACE TALKS.

TEXT: U-S AND SOUTH KOREAN MILITARY OFFICIALS IN SEOUL SAY THEY DECIDED TO CANCEL THE TEAM SPIRIT JOINT MILITARY EXERCISES IN HOPES OF EASING TENSIONS ON THE KOREAN PENINSULA.

THE TRAINING EXERCISES, INVOLVING BETWEEN 100 AND 200-THOUSAND U-S AND SOUTH KOREAN TROOPS, WERE HELD ANNUALLY BEGINNING IN 1976. BUT IN RECENT YEARS, THE MANEUVERS HAVE BEEN CANCELLED FOR POLITICAL REASONS.

THE PURPOSE OF TEAM SPIRIT HAS BEEN TO PREPARE TROOPS TO DEFEND AGAINST A POSSIBLE ATTACK ON SOUTH KOREA BY THE NORTH. BUT THE GOVERNMENT IN PYONGYANG HAS DENOUNCED THE EXERCISES, AS PREPARATIONS FOR AN INVASION OF NORTH KOREA.

U-S / KOREA COMBINED MILITARY COMMAND SPOKESMAN JIM COLES SAYS MILITARY PLANNERS FELT IT WOULD NOT BE APPROPRIATE TO CONDUCT THE WAR GAMES NOW, WHILE NEGOTIATIONS ARE UNDER WAY FOR PEACE TALKS BETWEEN NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA.

// COLES ACT //

THIS YEAR'S EXERCISE WAS CANCELED AS A CONFIDENCE BUILDING MEASURE TO FACILITATE DIALOGUE BETWEEN THE SOUTH AND THE NORTH TOWARDS RESOLVING THEIR PROBLEMS.

// END ACT //

DIPLOMATS FROM THE UNITED STATES, SOUTH AND NORTH KOREA ARE MEETING IN NEW YORK ON PROPOSALS FOR FUTURE FOUR PARTY PEACE TALKS INVOLVING CHINA.

THE TEAM SPIRIT EXERCISES WERE FIRST CANCELLED IN 1994 AS ONE OF THE CONDITIONS FOR GETTING NORTH KOREA TO FREEZE AND DISMANTLE ITS SUSPECTED NUCLEAR WEAPONS PROGRAM.

NORTH AND SOUTH KOREA ARE TECHNICALLY STILL AT WAR, MORE THAN FOUR DECADES AFTER THE UNITED STATES AND NORTH KOREA SIGNED THE ARMISTICE THAT ENDED THE FIGHTING. THERE ARE OFTEN INCIDENTS, SUCH AS THE RECENT INCURSION INTO THE SOUTH BY A NORTH KOREAN SUBMARINE.

MR. COLES SAYS WITH TENSIONS REMAINING HIGH, U-S AND SOUTH KOREAN TROOPS WILL CONTINUE TO HOLD SMALLER JOINT MILITARY EXERCISES, INVOLVING FIELD AND COMPUTER SIMULATED WAR GAMES. HE SAYS THE CANCELLATION OF THE LARGE-SCALE TEAM SPIRIT EXERCISES WILL NOT AFFECT THE READINESS OF THE FORCES TO DEFEND SOUTH KOREA FROM AN ATTACK BY THE NORTH.
(SIGNED)

NEB/CS/FC/CF

06-Mar-97 4:41 AM EST (0941 UTC)

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