Korea to skip joint military exercises

U.S., S.

March 03, 1994|By Gilbert A. Lewthwaite | Gilbert A. Lewthwaite,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- In a major gesture to North Korea, the Pentagon is ready to announce today the suspension of the annual U.S.-South Korean "Team Spirit" military exercises.

The planned announcement coincides with the start of limited inspections of North Korean nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency yesterday and the reopening today of the dialogue between the North and South Koreans at the border village of Panmunjom.

Those two developments were the administration's conditions for calling off this year's military exercises, an allied display of strength by land, sea and air that the North Koreans have repeatedly condemned as "provocative."

Administration officials said the exercises would be quickly rescheduled if the North Koreans blocked the seven-site inspection that is intended to verify that they are not working on nuclear weapons, or if they broke off the talks on making Korea a non-nuclear peninsula.

"This is part of the carrot-and-stick approach," said a senior Pentagon official.

The "stick" includes U.S. readiness to send Patriot anti-missile missiles to South Korea. But Seoul has been reluctant to accept the missiles, fearing that doing so would antagonize the North Koreans at a time of diplomatic progress.

Army Gen. Gary E. Luck, the commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, told Congress yesterday that the Seoul government might not accept the Patriots unless the United Nations moved toward imposing sanctions on the North. General Luck had asked for the Patriots as protection for his troops late last year as tension over the North's nuclear program was rising.

U.N. sanctions would inevitably escalate tension on the peninsula and could increase the threat of a North Korean invasion. The United States has threatened to push for sanctions if North Korea pursues its nuclear arms program.

The general told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that there was "no dramatic evidence" that North Korea was preparing for an attack.

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