N Korea remains silent on joint exercise

14-Aug-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

North Korea has been unusually mute about the ongoing joint military exercise between South Korea and the United States.

Pyongyang watchers believe recent floods there as well as the rescaled drill have made the country shift away from warlike rhetoric against the exercise that it denounces as a rehearsal for an invasion of the North.

The allies began a four-day crisis management staff training exercise, Tuesday, which serves as a warm-up to their annual joint exercise that will be carried out from Sunday to August 28. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the two sides have decided to scale it down and it will be based on a computer-simulated command post exercise, rather than outdoor drills.

Whenever the joint exercise was staged in the past, the North raised tensions on the Korean Peninsula with military threats and fiery rhetoric. Last year, it fired a newly developed tactical guided weapon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent US President Donald Trump a letter of complaint.

However, since Kim suspended military actions against the South, June 24, Pyongyang has refrained from issuing messages against Seoul as well as the joint exercise.

“The flood seems to have done the North great harm… Under such a difficult situation, Kim does not have to heighten tensions on the peninsula,” said Cho Han-beom, a senior researcher of the Korea Institute for National Unification.

“In addition, US troops necessary for the exercise cannot come here in large numbers due to the virus, so it will be held in a scaled-down manner, which would be less threatening to the North. As a result, the North may remain unusually silent.”

There is also speculation that the North Korean regime is taking a wait-and-see stance toward the South and the US

“Since the suspension of the military actions against the South, the North has been waiting for responses from the Moon Jae-in administration that has said it will keep its word on their inter-Korean agreement. As for the US, Kim Yo-jong’s request for a DVD of US Independence Day celebrations hinted that they were keeping the talks alive and now the North is also awaiting a response from Washington,” Cho said.

Meanwhile, the North has also remained quiet about relief proposals from the UN and the South Korean government.

The UN said, Tuesday, it is ready to help the rain-stricken North recover from the flood damage, saying that its team is in contact with North Korean authorities. In addition, the South Korean unification ministry also said it is willing to provide humanitarian assistance to the North irrespective of political considerations.

However, little information is available on the damage there, according to the ministry.

In the wake of the downpour, Kim and party officials visited a flood-hit county and issued an order to release grain from his special stock to the victims and facilitate the use of necessary supplies in rebuilding the damaged sites.

“Given that the UN and the South did not elaborate on the scale of support, I think the North has yet to respond to the offers. However, if the international community and the South Korean government aggressively push ahead with the relief plans, while allowing the North to save face and guaranteeing practical benefits for them, they are expected to accept the relief packages,” Cho said.

https://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2020/08/205_294338.html

 


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