A senior North Korean official said Wednesday that the announcement was equivalent to a "declaration for confrontation" that could jeopardise the diplomatic process.
In an extremely unusual case, South Korea deported two North Korean fishermen on Thursday after finding they had killed 16 other crew members on their boat and then fled to South Korean waters, Seoul officials said. But North Korea still sees the drills' intent as an invasion rehearsal.
But when they arrived at the North's Kimchaek port last week, with the intention of a quick turnaround, the third man was detained and the pair fled south in the same boat.
"We made a decision to deport them after determining that accepting them to our society could pose a threat to the lives and safety of our people and that such criminals cannot be recognized as refugees under worldwide law", Lee Sang-min, the Ministry spokesperson, told the media here.
As violent criminals, the two would not be recognized as refugees by global law, Lee said.
South Korea has a policy of accepting North Koreans who wants to resettle in the South to avoid political oppressions and economic poverty at home.
A unification ministry official declined to give specifics about the murders, but Seoul's joint investigation team confirmed that the men killed 16 people "very cruelly" with "blunt objects". The men may be executed in North Korea as punishment, the AP noted. Acting out of anger against the abusive skipper, the three accused killed him and murdered the remaining 15 to cover up their first crime, according to the minister.
A North Korean defector said it was "absolutely certain" that the two will be executed in the North. -South Korean plans to hold joint air exercises next month, warning that hopes for dialogue are "on the verge of extinction".
About 32,000 North Koreans have fled to the South since the end of the Korean War, majority via China and in the past two decades.
After pursuing them for two days, the South Korean navy seized them on November 2nd.
"As a result of a joint investigation, the men in their 20s were found to have killed and fled 16 fellow crew members from a squid fishing boat operating on the East Sea", ministry spokesman Lee Sang-min said, according to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency.