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U.S., South Korea to be in close contact during exercises

From Barbara Starr, CNN
  • NEW: The U.S. special envoy for six-party talks meets with officials in Seoul
  • South Korea plans live-fire exercises this weekend
  • North Korea has threatened retaliation
  • Russia has asked South Korea to cancel the drills

Washington (CNN) -- The Obama administration and South Korea have established contingency communication plans in the event North Korea retaliates against the South for holding military exercises, a U.S. military official said Friday.

The South Korea exercise scheduled for this weekend has sparked concern from Washington to Moscow. Russia has asked South Korea to cancel the drills after North Korea vowed to strike back if they proceed.

In the wake of the rising tensions, the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon will be in constant touch with South Korean counterparts over the weekend, the U.S. military official said.

"We will be prepared to talk if decision points arrive," he said, referring to the need for both sides to be able to talk if hostile actions break out.

The U.S. side will be ready to discuss with the South Koreans what might happen if various "courses of action," including "the most dangerous courses of action," are taken by other side, he said. The official emphasized the goal of communications arrangements over the weekend is to "keep things from escalating" if the North Koreans take any provocative actions.

Meanwhile Friday, Sung Kim, the U.S. special envoy for six-party talks, met with officials in Seoul to brief them on discussions with China about North Korea.

Diplomats, seeking a lessening of tensions and a return to the six-party talks with North Korea over the country's nuclear aspirations, are working to avert more hostilities.

The United States, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and North Korea are the six countries involved in the talks, which have been put on hold.

CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this report.