SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- The United States and South Korea said
Tuesday they will conduct a joint military exercise next week amid
rising tensions with North Korea and fears that the isolated
communist nation will test a new ballistic missile.
The allies' annual exercise is likely to draw fresh condemnation
from North Korea. This week, it accused the United States of
conspiring to start another war on the Korean peninsula by
insisting the communist country put off the test missile launch.
On Tuesday, North Korea turned its rhetoric on Japan,
threatening "merciless retaliation" if Tokyo tries anything
Japan, South Korea and the United States have warned of economic
penalties against the North's government if it goes ahead with a
long-range missile launch. North Korea says it has a sovereign
right to test the missile.
Last year, North Korea rattled Tokyo by firing a rocket over
Japan into the Pacific Ocean. The new missile that is reportedly
being developed is said to be able to reach Alaska and Hawaii.
The U.S.-South Korean military exercise, code-named Ulji Focus
Lens, will run for 12 days starting Monday and include 14,000 U.S.
soldiers and 56,000 South Korean troops.
The exercise is one of the largest of several conducted annually
by the armed forces of the two countries. It largely involves
computer simulations, but there will also be troop movements.
The U.S. military command in Seoul said the U.S. Blue Ridge --
the flagship of the Japan-based U.S. 7th Fleet -- will take part
along with an unspecified number of warships.
About 37,000 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea, a legacy
of the 1950-53 Korean War. Many are based near the heavily
fortified border between the two Koreas.
North Korea's warning to Japan came in a statement marking the
54th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japan on Aug. 15, 1945.
"If Japan opts to open good-neighborly relations through
liquidation of the past, the (North) will welcome it with
pleasure," said the statement, carried by the country's foreign
news outlet, the Korean Central News Agency. "But if it repeats
its crime-woven history and undertakes a reckless provocation, the
(North) will never miss the opportunity of meting out merciless
During Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule, Koreans were banned from
using their Korean names and language. Millions of Korean men were
conscripted into the Japanese army, and historians say up to
200,000 Korean women were forced into sexual slavery by the
Japanese military during World War II.
In Beijing, meanwhile, the executive director of the World Food
Program said she hoped international donors would continue giving
food aid to impoverished North Korea even if it proceeds with a
Millions of North Koreans are malnourished after years of famine
and "food aid is absolutely essential for them to be able to
continue to survive," Catherine Bertini said after a six-day visit
to North Korea. "A five-year-old child knows no politics, knows no
international intrigue. He or she only knows that he's hungry,
(Copyright 1999 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)