The United States and South Korea will respond strongly if North Korea conducts another nuclear test, their special envoys warned Monday, as the two countries began joint military exercises despite protests from the North that they should be canceled.
Sung Kim, U.S. special representative for North Korean affairs, met with his South Korean counterpart Noh Kyu Duk in Seoul in light of North Korea’s recent provocative acts including the launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Washington and Seoul share concerns about Pyongyang’s “escalatory actions” and will “continue to work closely to respond responsibly and decisively to the provocative behavior in the united context and beyond,” said Kim at the outset of the meeting.
Noh said in a joint briefing after the meeting, “South Korea and the United States agreed to coordinate very closely, in case North Korea continues conducting nuclear tests and ICBM launches that violate U.N. security council resolutions.”
Kim added that it is important for the United Nations to send a clear signal to North Korea that such escalatory threats will not be accepted anymore.
But he also said the United States is open for talks with North Korea and will remain prepared to meet anywhere without any preconditions.
“I once again call on Pyongyang to pursue a diplomatic path with us,” Kim said, stressing that the United States and South Korea have no hostile intent toward the North. Also Monday, South Korea and the United States began their joint springtime military exercises, the South Korean military said.
The nine-day exercises will be computer simulated and not involve field drills, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“The training this time will offer a chance to enhance the combined operational capabilities of South Korean and U.S. troops and further solidify the allies’ combined defense posture,” the JCS said in a statement.
North Korea harshly criticized the exercises on its state-run propaganda website Uriminzokkiri on Sunday, saying, “Invaders and provocateurs must pay” for their actions.
Kim said in the briefing that he and Noh also “agreed on the need to maintain the strongest possible joint deterrent capability” on the Korean Peninsula, and that “this is why our militaries are exercising and training together like the exercise that started today.”
North Korea on Saturday fired a new type of missile that reached an altitude of about 25 kilometers and flew about 110 km, South Korea’s JCS said on Sunday.
Concerns are growing about further North Korean provocations around the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army on April 25.