From: Reuters
Published February 29, 2008 02:07 AM

U.S., S.Korea military drills test overture to North

By Jon Herskovitz

SEOUL (Reuters) - A first test of the goodwill generated in North Korea by the unprecedented concert of the New York Philharmonic in Pyongyang comes this weekend when the United States and South Korea hold joint military drills.

North Korea regularly denounces the annual exercises as a prelude to invasion and nuclear war and analysts doubt the reclusive state will change its tune despite this week's concert which was aimed at warning ties between foes of more than 60 years.

"What I would not expect under any circumstance is a softening in the anti-American propaganda," said Brian Myers, a specialist in the North's propaganda who teaches at Dongseo University in the southern city of Busan.

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First, the North's propaganda machine moves too slowly to make quick changes in its heated rhetoric, Myers said.

Secondly, it would be nearly impossible for the leaders of North Korea to justify sacrificing economic growth for a policy of putting its military first if the United States were no longer seen as a threat, he added.

"You make yourself irrelevant, your military first policy irrelevant and your own government irrelevant by declaring that the country no longer needs to be on guard 24/7 against an American attack," he said.

The United States is bringing an aircraft carrier to South Korea for the joint training exercises called "RSOI" and "Key Resolve" to prepare U.S. and South Korean troops for a North Korean attack.

The exercises start on Sunday and end on March 7.

North Korea had denounced them before the concert.

"The reality clearly proves that the United States and its lackeys the South Korean warmongers have always been chiefly to blame for blocking the Koreans' cause of independent reunification and bringing the danger of war," the North's communist party newspaper wrote.

Some analysts said the most they expect would be subtle changes in the North's heated rhetoric condemning the war exercises if the sound of goodwill generated by Tuesday's concert is still ringing in the ears of Pyongyang's leaders.

The United States has about 27,000 troops in South Korea to support the country's 670,000-strong military. North Korea is one of the world's most militarized states with an army of 1.2 million, most of whom are stationed near the border with the South.

(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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