News

Pacific Stars And Stripes
August 24, 1999
Pg. 3

War ‘Unavoidable,’ NK Newspaper Says

By Jim Lea, Stripes Osan Bureau Chief

OSAN AIR BASE, South Korea — A joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea reveals the "increasing militarism" of the two countries and has made a second Korean War inevitable, the official newspaper of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party said Sunday.

A report by the state-run Korean Central News Agency monitored in Seoul quoted an editorial in Rodong Shinmun as saying the exercise is proof of the "belligerent relationship" of the United States and South Korea toward the North.

"A second Korean War has become unavoidable," the editorial said.

This is the 25th year the annual exercise, known as Ulchi Focus Lens, has been held. The ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Command said the training drill is a computer-simulated command post exercise that tests and improves command and control, which would be necessary in the event of a combat contingency on the peninsula.

Each time the drill has been held in the past, Pyongyang has called it training for a nuclear attack on the North and has demanded it be canceled. North Korea made similar claims at the beginning of the Kosovo conflict.

Almost immediately after the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia began, Pyongyang began claiming that Operation Allied Force was a test of plans by the United States to invade the North. Those claims increased after the June 15 gun battle between South and North Korean military ships in the Yellow Sea.

While there are about 70,000 U.S. and South Korean troops and another 5,400 U.S. troops stationed outside the peninsula involved in the exercise, there are no field exercises. South Korean troops are, however, conducting some field exercises in an exercise called Hwarang.

Those activities included building a pontoon bridge across the Han River in Seoul last week as well as a major civil defense drill in the capital. The joint exercise will end Friday.

Meanwhile, South Korean Foreign Minister Hong Soon-young was to meet with his Japanese counterpart, Masahiko Komura, in Tokyo on Monday. Also, South Korean Unification Minister Lim Dong-won left Seoul on Monday for a weeklong visit to the United States, which will include talks with William Perry, Washington’s point man on North Korea.

The three-pronged South Korean effort has the same agenda: what carrot can be offered if North Korea decides not to launch a missile which experts say could reach Hawaii and Alaska. Analysts believe the North wants economic and political benefits in return for holding off on a test, which many fear would unsettle security in the region.

In Tokyo, Hong was expected to ask Japan to offer economic aid if North Korea does not launch a missile. Japan has openly threatened economic penalties if the launch takes place, possibly including a ban on hundreds of millions of dollars sent by North Korea residents of Japan to their impoverished homeland each year.

In San Francisco, the South Korean unification minister, Lim, was scheduled to meet Perry later this week.