Kerry says North Korea should not link family reunions with exercises

SEOUL Thu Feb 13, 2014 8:07am EST

1 of 7. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se (R) during their meeting in Seoul February 13, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Evan Vucci/Pool

SEOUL (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Thursday military exercises with South Korea this month will be the same as drills that have been held over the years and North Korea should not link them with reunions of separated Korean families.

North Korea, which says the exercises are a rehearsal for war, demanded in rare talks with South Korean officials on Wednesday that the drills be postponed so that they do not overlap with the planned reunion of families separated since the 1950-53 Korean War.

"The United States doesn't believe it is appropriate to link humanitarian issues such as (family) reunification to any other issues," Kerry told a news conference with his South Korean counterpart when asked about the North's demand on the drills.

Earlier on Thursday, South Korea said it had rejected North Korea's demand to postpone the exercises, which had raised the possibility that the family reunions might get scrapped.

North and South Korean officials will meet again on Friday for the second round of talks at the Panmunjom truce village, the South's Unification Ministry said, adding that the meeting was again proposed by the North.

Kerry urged North Korea to abide by commitments it had made to show it was serious about re-engaging the United States in nuclear talks.

He also said China could do more to help nudge North Korea into line.

"Our belief is that China can do more now to urge North Korea to begin taking action to come into compliance with its international obligations," Kerry said. "And I will encourage China to use all of the means at its disposal to do so."

Kerry travels to China on Friday where he was expected to take up the issue of a new air defense zone declared by Beijing last year that spurred diplomatic tension with neighboring South Korea and Japan.

China, South Korea and Japan are also involved in separate disputes over claims to offshore islands.

Kerry also urged South Korea and Japan to "put history behind them" and calm tension.

Ties between South Korea and Japan have cooled sharply recently over the territorial dispute and after Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited a Tokyo shrine for war dead, rekindling anger in South Korea and China over Japan's wartime past, which its neighbors feel it has not atoned for.

"It is critical, at the same time, that we maintain robust trilateral cooperation, particularly in the face of North Korea's nuclear threat," Kerry said, referring to the three-way ties among South Korea, Japan and the United States.

(Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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Comments (4)
WestFlorida wrote:
This entire episode was just another NoK set-up, transparent from the very beginning. The pattern repeats itself over and over and over. Nothing new. Promise nice, get a commitment, then spit in the other’s face. No mention of the annual NoK military exercises designed to obliterate the South. Always a one-sided negotiation with the NoKs. Promise and spit; promise and spit.

Feb 13, 2014 9:28am EST  --  Report as abuse
sabrefencer wrote:
the north Koreans, play their games, Kerry keeps talking and looking in the mirror, so what is new?

Feb 13, 2014 11:40am EST  --  Report as abuse
Trichiurus wrote:
Once again, the idiot speaks.

Feb 13, 2014 1:51pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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