By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | MARCH 11, 2013
South Korea and the U.S. began joint military exercises on Monday, at a time when the situation on the Korean Peninsula has reached one of the most tense levels in recent years.
Pyongyang has called the military exercises an invasion and announced the cancellation of the armistice treaty that ended the Korean War (1950-1953). The conflict ended with a ceasefire that never became a final peace treaty.
The maneuvers, called Key Resolve will last 11 days and, though they are largely conducted by computer simulation, it includes the participation of more than 10,000 U.S. troops and 3,500 South Koreans.
The U.S. military has said that the maneuvers, which are part of a broader, two-month campaign, began on March 1 and are not related to the latest developments on the Korean Peninsula. Washington has a contingent of 28,500 troops in South Korean territory.
Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the Workers Party of North Korea, has confirmed the “end all” of the armistice treaty of 1953 and warned about the volatility of the situation.
“With the ceasefire ended, no one can predict what will happen on this land from now on,” said the daily. Pyongyang has also canceled all non-aggression pacts with the South, like the one signed in 1991, which set the peaceful resolution of disputes and prevents accidental military skirmishes.
Military exercises are especially important this year, say the Americans, because it is the first time the South Korean Joint Chiefs planned and executed the joint maneuvers. It is expected that in December 2015 Seoul will assume operational control of the combined forces in case of war.
The North said last Friday that, beginning Monday it will break all non-aggression pacts with the South and cut direct communication lines, in response to sanctions adopted last week by the Security Council of the UN against the Asian country for nuclear testing that took place in February.
The South Korean Ministry for Unification has confirmed that Pyongyang broke the connection. Both parties usually speak twice a day, but the North has not responded to the calls made this morning. The hotline was installed in 1971, and since 2010 Pyongyang has canceled the lines of communication five times.
But at least two other channels of communication between their military and aviation administrations are still functioning. The South Korean Defense Ministry has said that North Korea plans to launch its own large-scale military maneuvers along its eastern front this week. Those maneuvers will include the participation of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
The North Korean artillery bases on islands near the disputed sea border with the South have placed their guns in firing position. “The North seems to be increasing its military activities,” said Kim Min-seok, spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry.
The regime of Kim Jong-un has intensified the usual bellicose rhetoric in recent weeks, saying that a second Korean war is “inevitable” and threatened to carry out “preemptive nuclear strikes” against the U.S. and South Korea.