Provocative war games can only stir up further trouble on Korean Peninsula

Source:Xinhua Published: 2016/8/25 18:58:40

South Korea and the US need to make efforts to resume dialogue with North Korea instead of being engrossed in war games that escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia.

The Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) computer-simulated exercises kicked off on Monday, mobilizing tens of thousands of soldiers. They are scheduled to run through next Friday, mounting the already-heightened tensions in the region further until the exercises end.

Seoul and Washington claim that their drills are defensive in nature, but this year's exercises allegedly adopt Operation Plan 5015 (OPLAN 5015), a wartime joint response scenario signed in June last year between the two countries, which includes a pre-emptive strike, contradicting the defensive claims.

Rather, the drills are aggressive, and can only raise the possibility of military conflicts on the peninsula.

A strong backlash came from Pyongyang, which said it would "foil all hostile acts and threat of aggression and provocation with Korean-style nuclear deterrence."

North Korea sees the US-South Korea annual war games as a dress rehearsal for northward invasion.

Ahead of the joint exercises, US forces forward-deployed a B-1B supersonic-speed bomber on August 6 and a B-2 strategic bomber on August 11 to an air base in Guam.

The two nuclear-capable bombers and a B-52 bomber made a sortie last week to the Pacific region, flexing the country's nuclear muscle in an aggressive manner.

Such muscle-flexing came just four months after US-South Korea springtime war games, codenamed "Key Resolve" and "Foal Eagle" ended in late April. This year's spring exercises were the largest-ever.

In the past nine years, South Korea and the US have maintained a so-called strategic patience toward North Korea, refraining from talks with Pyongyang and demanding it take unilateral action to abandon its nuclear program first.

Pyongyang made overtures in early 2015 that it would suspend nuclear tests in return for a halt of US-South Korea war games ahead of last year's Key Resolve and Foal Eagle exercises. However, it was flatly denied by Seoul and Washington.

The flat denial was followed by North Korea's nuclear detonation in January and the launch in February of its long-range rocket.

In retaliation, South Korea shut down Kaesong Industrial complex in North Korea's border town, one of a few inter-Korean economic cooperation projects, and resumed propaganda broadcasts through loudspeakers in frontline units, resulting in a cutoff in all of inter-Korean communication hotlines.

Seoul's super-hardline policy reached an apex in July by agreeing with Washington to deploy one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in southeastern South Korea by the end of next year.

Tensions are running the highest in the region as the deployment decision made Pyongyang more aggressive and drew a strong backlash from China and Russia.

The placement of THAAD's X-band radar in South Korea allows it to snoop on Chinese and Russian territories, breaking a strategic balance and damaging security interests of Beijing and Moscow.

South Korea is faced with the risks of failing to earn cooperation from China and Russia in dealing with the peninsula's nuclear issue.

As seen in past experiences, Seoul's super-hardline policy will never resolve the peninsula's nuclear crisis, only resulting in a vicious cycle of violence for violence.

Seoul and Washington need to stop their joint annual war games to restore inter-Korean relations and bring peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

Efforts to resume the long-stalled Six-Party Talks, which have been suspended since December 2008, and replace the Korean armistice with a peace treaty, will be a desirable first step toward peace and stability in the region.

The article is a commentary from the Xinhua News Agency. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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