SEOUL, March 13 (Xinhua) -- South Korean peace activists have cried out over the weekend for an end to the war exercise with the United States as it was feared to escalate military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in the region.
Hundreds of peace activists gathered near the presidential office in central Seoul on Saturday to demand stopping the Freedom Shield (FS), the South Korea-U.S. joint military exercise that kicked off on Monday and would last for 11 days until March 23.
Holding banners and placards with the slogans of "Stop the Korea-U.S. joint exercise that brings on war" and "What we want is peace" in their hands, the participants shouted, "We want to live. Stop the war exercise."
They lay down on the street when a siren rang to do a "die-in" performance that was aimed at warning against the heightened war crisis on the peninsula ahead of the annual springtime war game, the demonstration organizer said.
The protesters marched about 3.6 km in line to a plaza beside the Seoul metropolitan government building, where thousands more joined the protest rally.
During the 11-day war game, the combined forces planned to stage a number of large-scale field training exercises, named Warrior Shield, that include a combined amphibious drill where as many as 13,000 soldiers would reportedly be mobilized.
Seoul and Washington have insisted that the joint drill was defensive in nature, but the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) has denounced it as a dress rehearsal for northward invasion.
"It raises tensions as the United States is carrying out the large-scale Korea-U.S. joint military exercise targeting the DPRK while mobilizing strategic weapons such as B-2 and B-52 (nuclear-capable bombers)," Lee Jin-ho, one of the rally participants, told Xinhua.
He noted that the war game involving the U.S. nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers will increase military tensions on the peninsula and in neighboring countries, warning that the South Korea-U.S.-Japan military alliance, which the United States was seeking to forge, could instigate war and encourage friction in East Asia.
The peace rally and march were organized by Korea Peace Appeal, a campaign to officially end the 1950-53 Korean War by collecting 100 million signatures.
The war between the two Koreas ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. Joining the campaign were over 370 South Korean civic and religious groups as well as over 70 international partner organizations.
"The Korea-U.S. joint military exercise should be stopped immediately before it leads to a greater crisis. It is urgent to de-escalate military tensions and create dialogue conditions again," the organizer said. ■