Sat, Aug 29, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Kim credits nuclear might, not talks, for S Korea deal

AFP, SEOUL and POCHEON, South Korea

The South Korean army’s K1A1 battle tank fires during the South Korea-US joint military live-fire drills yesterday at Seungjin Fire Training Field in Pocheon, South Korea, near the border with North Korea.

Photo: AP

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said that nuclear weapons — not negotiating skills — secured what he described as a “landmark” agreement this week with South Korea to end a dangerous military standoff.

Chairing a meeting of the Central Military Commission, Kim credited the North with securing the deal, which had put the rival Koreas back on the path of “reconciliation and trust,” the North’s official KCNA news agency said yesterday.

The agreement, reached after marathon day-night talks in the border truce village of Panmunjom, pulled both sides back from the brink of an armed conflict and committed them to starting an official dialogue.

However, Kim made it clear that sitting down to talks would not entail North Korea discussing the end of its nuclear weapons program, which he said was key to maintaining peace in the first place.

The agreement “was by no means something achieved on the negotiating table, but thanks to the tremendous military muscle with the nuclear deterrent for self-defense,” Kim told the meeting.

The latest inter-Korean crisis had its roots in landmine blasts earlier this month that maimed two South Korean soldiers on patrol along the border with the North.

Seoul blamed Pyongyang and responded by switching on banks of giant speakers, which had lain silent for more than a decade, and blasting propaganda messages into North Korea.

The North denied any involvement and threatened to attack the propaganda units as cross-border military tensions soared.

The agreement reached in Panmunjom saw the North express regret — but not admit responsibility — for the maiming of the two soldiers, while the South undertook to cease the high-decibel broadcasts.

Kim also replaced some of the commission’s members during the meeting, the KCNA report said.

The dismissals were mentioned in a sentence that also referred to extensive flood damage reported last week in Rason, a special economic zone in the country’s northeast. However, some South Korean analysts speculated that Kim might have reshuffled the panel to reward or punish officials involved in the recent standoff and subsequent talks.

Meanwhile, South Korean and US troops yesterday staged their biggest-ever joint live-fire drill, including a simulated mechanized assault deep into North Korean territory, just days after the two Koreas ended a tense military standoff.

The exercise, conducted in several stages, envisaged an initial North Korean provocation, followed by an escalating clash and culminating in a counterattack across the border.

The drill was held near the border town of Pocheon, about 20km south of the Demilitarized Zone.

“In terms of ammunition and personnel mobilized, this is the biggest live-fire exercise South Korean troops have ever staged independently or jointly with US troops,” a South Korean Ministry of National Defense spokesman said.

It involved about 3,000 US and South Korean soldiers, about 100 tanks and armored vehicles, 120 heavy guns, 45 helicopters and more than 40 jet fighters.

Additional reporting by NY Times News Service

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