Activists call for an end to joint South Korean-US military drills during an 'anti-war' rally in Seoul on February 24, 2014. AFP PHOTO / Ed Jones
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South Korea kicked off its annual joint military exercises with the United States on Monday, despite vocal opposition from North Korea which will test a recent upswing in cross-border ties.Pyongyang had initially insisted that the joint exercises be postponed until after the reunion finishes on Tuesday, but Seoul refused and -- in a rare concession -- the North allowed the family gathering to go ahead as scheduled.US defence officials have indicated -- in an apparent effort to mollify the North -- that this year's drills will be slightly toned down, with no aircraft carrier and no strategic bombers.Saturday's edition of the North's ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun slammed the exercises as a "vicious attempt" to undo the goodwill generated by the family reunion.The North's threat to cancel the reunion over the joint drills was withdrawn during talks earlier this month that marked the highest-level official contact between the two Koreas for seven years.
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