South Korea, US kick off joint air exercise

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North Korea has long dounced the allies’ military drills as a war rehearsal for an invasion and used them as an excuse for provocations…reports Asian Lite News.

South Korea and the US kicked off a combined annual air exercise Monday, in a low-key manner apparently to back ongoing diplomacy to resume dialogue with North Korea, a military source said.

For the five-day exercise, the allies mobilised some 100 air assets each, including F-15K and KF-16 jets from South Korea, and F-16s from the US, Yonhap News Agency quoted the source as saying, noting no military assets were deployed from the US mainland this time.

The allies have regularly held the air exercise in a scaled-down, low-key manner since they suspended the large-scale Vigilant Ace exercise to support peace efforts on the Korean Peninsula.

The South Korean Air Force declined in public to elaborate on the manoeuvers, only saying that allied exercises are carried out in a “balanced manner” under the annual plan.

“We cannot comment on the exercise as it is one that is not disclosed to the media,” an Air Force official said.

North Korea has long denounced the allies’ military drills as a war rehearsal for an invasion and used them as an excuse for provocations.

The reclusive regime recently called on the allies to drop “double standards”, slamming Seoul and Washington for defining its missile activities as “provocations” while rationalizing their own as deterrence.

Seoul to discuss resuming border tours with UN

The South Korean Unification Minister said on Monday that it will begin discussions with the US-led UN Command (UNC) to resume tours to the inter-Korean border village of Panmunjom as Seoul began its “living with Covid-19” scheme meant to phase out restrictions amid a rising vaccination rate.

Tours to Panmunjom, or the Joint Security Area (JSA), were suspended in July after health authorities imposed the toughest virus curbs in the greater Seoul area, home to half of the country’s 52 million population, reports Yonhap News Agency.

“We are beginning discussions with the UNC and other related organisations on the resumption of tours to Panmunjom,” Ministry spokesperson Lee Jong-joo told reporters.

The UNC said it has also resumed armistice education seminars for units stationed at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas.

“After a Covid social distancing pause, armistice education is back in full swing,” the UNC wrote on Facebook.

“They are back on the road this week, supporting clear, consistent and transparent adherence to the terms of the armistice.”

The move is in line with South Korea’s implementation of its first step to get back to normal life Monday on the back of a rising vaccination rate at over 75 percent.

Under the living with Covid-19 policy, South Korea plans to lift most of the virus curbs in phases by the end of January.

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