11 March 2013

North Korea Nullifies Armistice, Now What...

03/11/2013 10:11 AM CDT

North Korea Nullifies Armistice, Key Resolve Kicks Off

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2013 - U.S. and South Korean forces kicked off the annual Key Resolve exercise today, with the North Korean army's supreme command reportedly responding by nullifying the armistice agreement that has maintained peace on the Korean Peninsula for six decades.

Army Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of Combined Forces Command and U.S. Forces Korea, opened the annual combined and joint command post exercise today, calling it "a critical exercise in strengthening the readiness of combined Republic of Korea and U.S. forces."

The exercise, which will continue through March 21, begins during a particularly tense time in Korea. North Korea, angered by tighter sanctions the U.N. Security Council approved in response to its latest missile launch in February, has increasingly ratcheted up its threats over the past week to invalidate the armistice agreement.

Today, the North Korean press reported that "the U.S. has reduced the armistice agreement to a dead paper." North Korea also reportedly cut off a phone line between North and South Korea that provided immediate communication when required to reduce tensions.

Meanwhile, under scenarios developed for Key Resolve 2013, more than 3,000 U.S. participants are working with about 10,000 of their South Korean counterparts to hone the skills necessary to defend South Korea. This, officials said, includes improving the operational capabilities of combined U.S. and South Korean forces, coordinating and executing the deployment of U.S. reinforcements and maintaining South Korean military combat capabilities.

Key Resolve is part of an ongoing effort to increase the alliance's readiness, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula, officials said. U.S. Pacific Command, which is heavily involved in Key Resolve 2013, plans to participate in naval training exercises around Korea and other activities to improve the alliance's capacity to deter aggression, they reported.

Thurman declared this year's exercise a major step in advancing the alliance. "This year is particularly important, because it is the first time the [South Korean] Joint Chiefs of Staff have planned and executed this combined exercise," he noted. "In doing so, they are taking great strides to assume wartime operational control of forces in December 2015."

Swedish and Swiss Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission observers are on the ground to monitor the exercise to ensure it complies with terms of the armistice agreement, officials said. Five United Nations Command states also are participating: Australia, Canada, Colombia, Denmark and the United Kingdom.

Foreign ministers from 27 European Union nations are meeting in Brussels today to discuss a range of diplomatic issues, including imposing fresh sanctions on North Korea for its latest provocations.

Thurman emphasized last week the importance of the armistice that has kept an uneasy peace on the peninsula since it ended Korean War hostilities in 1953.

"For 60 years, the armistice agreement has ensured peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," he said in a statement released from the South Korean capital of Seoul. "It concerns me when any signatory to a mutual agreement makes a public statement contrary to that agreement..

"As the UNC commander, I am charged to fully enforce the conditions of the armistice," Thurman continued. "The success of the armistice has enabled the Republic of Korea to become a vibrant democracy, and we remain ready to defend the Republic of Korea."