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TOKYO, January 16. /ITAR-TASS/. The South Korean Defence Ministry has warned Pyongyang it would make a powerful retaliatory strike if North Korea stages any provocations, a ministry official said at a news conference on Thursday, Japanese media report.
He said Seoul’s retaliation will be “prompt and stern.”
The ministry official in this connection rejected the North Korean demand, issued on January 15, that the South cancel large-scale maneuvers of the South Korean and U.S. military. “The Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises will be held as scheduled,” the Defense Ministry spokesman said, adding the exercises are “annual and defensive in nature.” “Before criticizing the annual and defensive exercises, North Korea should take sincere actions toward its de-nuclearization,” the official said.
The joint command-staff exercises Key Resolve and Foal Eagle are conducted regularly in the period from late February to April. North Korea, in the statement issued by the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, a North Korean propaganda organ, said the planned exercises were tantamount to a declaration of a “full-scale nuclear war.” The document says that the “northbound nuclear war drills, if carried out, will fatally destroy the inter-Korean relations and trigger unimaginable calamities and disasters.”
Tension aggravates in the region during the annual military maneuvers. Washington, Seoul and Tokyo believe that to counter the exercises and demonstrate its determination, Pyongyang may take some tough measures - such as launches of ballistic missiles or even a new nuclear test.