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Last week, Pyongyang called on its southern neighbour to cancel annual war games with the US military.
North Korea’s National Defense Commission said in a policy bureau spokesman’s statement that dialogue between the two Koreas about security on the peninsula “can never be compatible” with war games that are designed to wage war.
The statement came a day after the two Koreas decided to hold family reunions from February 20 to 24 – the first in more than three years – as a confidence-building measure that potentially could lead to greater dialogue.
On Thursday, Kerry appeared to rebuke the North Korean government.
“The family reunification is a matter of human rights. There is no legitimate excuse for linking the two,” Kerry said during a joint press conference with Yun Byung-se, South Korea’s foreign minister, in Seoul.
The war exercises – known as Key Resolve and Foal Eagle – which are held from the end of February till the middle of April, have been a major source of contention for Pyongyang.
Seoul says its exercises were of a defensive nature.
Last year, relations between the two Koreas significantly deteriorated after Pyongyang announced it was terminating the 61-year-old armistice with Seoul.
North and South Korea are not technically “at peace” since no peace treaty was signed following the Korean War in 1953. The Demilitarized Zone between the countries is the most heavily armed border in the world.
Kerry will on Friday fly to China to seek Beijing’s help in pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programmes.