Saturday, March 2, 2024

US-S Korea war games loom over Korean reunions

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SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA: A year ago, North Korea vowed nuclear attacks to retaliate for US-South Korean war games. But the start on Monday of this year’s joint military drills comes as Pyongyang allows wrenching reunions of elderly Koreans separated since the Korean War.
As always with the rival Koreas, cold political calculations loom behind the scenes of pure emotion.
The reasons for Pyongyang’s about-face are seen as having more to do with the impoverished country’s desire to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington and its need for money than with concern about the painfully brief reunions of Koreans who haven’t seen each other since the war’s end in 1953.
After a last-minute cancellation of reunions in September, Pyongyang allowed them to go forward this time after recent rare high-level talks with Seoul. The first reunions of North and South Koreans in more than three years have been held despite the refusal by the U.S. and South Korea to cancel what they call routine drills, but which Pyongyang says are preparations for an invasion.
The two sets of drills began on Monday as scheduled, but there was no immediate reaction from North Korea’s military, according to Seoul’s defense ministry.
On Sunday, about 360 South Koreans arrived at the North’s Diamond Mountain resort to meet dozens of North Korean relatives, the second and final group of Koreans to participate in reunions that began on Thursday and end on Tuesday. These are the lucky few, only a fraction of the millions of Koreans separated by the Korean War.
North Korea allowed these reunions, analysts say, largely because it wants increased aid shipments, outside investment and negotiations with Seoul over the resumption of once-lucrative jointly run tours at the Diamond Mountain resort.
Even as Pyongyang eases its stance toward Seoul, it has repeatedly accused Washington of engineering efforts to divide the Koreas. (Agencies)

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