SEOUL: The United States announced plans yesterday for joint war games with South Korea and emphatically ruled out direct talks with North Korea to resolve an escalating nuclear crisis.
With no glimmer of respite in the four-month old nuclear standoff, US authorities announced that annual joint military exercises would take place from March 4 to April 2 on the Korean peninsula.
North Korea routinely denounces military drills in South Korea as preparations for an invasion and experts said this time the denunciations would be even more strident.
But US officials refused to link the war games to the nuclear crisis simmering since October, describing them as purely defensive and designed to improve the ability of allied forces to defend South Korea against “external aggression.”
Washington is demanding that North Korea scrap its nuclear weapons ambitions before it will agree to negotiate with the Stalinist regime.
Pyongyang insists on a non-aggression pact and direct talks first.
Though North Korea has yet to respond to the announcement of US-South Korean war games, its official media indicated the mood of the country when it said yesterday the regime's victory in a nuclear war against the US was already assured.
”Victory is ours in the nuclear confrontation and our flag will fly more vigorously than before,” North Korea's state radio said in a broadcast monitored by Yonhap news agency here.
“Our victory will be decisive and our future will be even brighter.”
The joint military exercises are an annual fixture between South Korean and US forces, allied in a 50-year-old defence pact.
A US aircraft carrier will be deployed to waters around the Korean peninsula and a mock battle will be staged.
This time, however, the stakes are far higher. On Sunday, US President George Bush's national security adviser Condoleezza Rice reiterated once more that Washington had no interest in opening direct talks with North Korea. – AFP
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