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(LEAD) Moon rejects Abe's call to resume Korea-U.S. military drills

2018/02/10 16:47

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(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, additional information from 5th para)

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in has dismissed a call from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to quickly resume South Korea's joint military drills with the United States, calling it a violation of his country's sovereignty, an official from Seoul's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said Saturday.

The Japanese leader's call came in a bilateral summit held in Yongpyeong, 200 kilometers east of Seoul, on Friday.

Abe stressed the need for what he called an "actual" change in the North's behavior, saying it was not the right time for Seoul and Washington to delay their joint military exercises, the ranking Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"I understand what Prime Minister Abe said is not to delay South Korea-U.S. military drills until there is progress in the denuclearization of North Korea. But the issue is about our sovereignty and intervention in our domestic affairs," Moon told the Japanese leader, according to the official.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) holds talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the South Korean alpine town of PyeongChang on Feb. 9, 2018. The talks came ahead of the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics later in the day. (Yonhap) South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) holds talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the South Korean alpine town of PyeongChang on Feb. 9, 2018. The talks came ahead of the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics later in the day. (Yonhap)

"The president said it was not appropriate for the prime minister to directly mention the issue," the official said.

Seoul and Washington earlier agreed to postpone annual exercises of their joint forces in South Korea until after the PyeongChang Olympic Games, in an apparent attempt to encourage North Korea to participate in the quadrennial event.

North Korea has sent some 400 people to the PyeongChang Olympics that began Friday, including 22 athletes and a 140-member art troupe, which earlier staged a performance in Gangneung, a co-host city of the Winter Olympic Games located some 230 kilometers east of Seoul. The North Korean art group is scheduled to stage a performance in Seoul on Sunday.

bdk@yna.co.kr

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