SEOUL: North Korea demanded South Korea to postpone annual joint military drills with the United States until after reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, but Seoul rejected the demand, saying it’s impossible, an official said on Thursday.
The demand was made at a rare high-level meeting between South Korea and North Korea at the border truce village of Panmunjom on Wednesday.
“North Korea persistently demanded the postponement of the joint exercise for two days where it overlaps the reunions,” South Korea’s Unification Minister Ryoo Kihl-jae told lawmakers at the National Assembly on Thursday.
“As far as we’re concerned, it’s impossible,” minister added.
The minister said that the South Korean side emphasized that family reunions are a humanitarian issue and should not be linked with political or military matters. He said that a clear message was sent that the South could not accept a postponement.
Earlier this month, an agreement was reached between the countries during a meeting at the Panmunjom border village, allowing separated families to hold brief reunions from February 20 to 25 at the Mount Kumgang resort on North Korea’s east coast.
But a day after, North Korea threatened to reconsider plans with South Korea to resume reunions of families if Seoul did not cancel its scheduled military exercises with the US.
The unification ministry said that the two sides will meet again on Friday for the second round of talks at the border truce village of Panmunjom, adding that the meeting was again proposed by the North Korea.