North Korea has slammed South Korea for the latter’s combined military exercise with the United States, which kicked off Sunday, saying it will not interact with the South until there is a plausible explanation for the “war exercise.”
In a Foreign Ministry statement, released a day after it launched what are believed to be short-range ballistic missiles, Pyongyang said its recent launches are just part of the regular process of developing conventional weapons.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un smiles as he guides the test-firing of a "new weapon system" on Sunday. (Yonhap)
“Given that the military exercise clearly marks us as an enemy, they should think that further inter-Korean contacts will be difficult unless they put an end to such a military exercise, or before they make a plausible excuse or an explanation in a sincere manner for conducting the drills,” said a statement released under the name of Kwon Jong-kun, director-general of the Department of American Affairs.
The statement came as South Korea and the United States began their joint computer-based exercise called “Combined Command Post Training” for the second half of the year.
The allies had conducted the Dong Maeng 19-1 joint military exercise in March, replacing previous annual exercises Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, in part to support peace efforts with North Korea.
The Combined Command Post Training, which follows four-day “crisis management staff training” that started Aug. 5, is aimed at verifying capabilities for the envisioned retaking of wartime operational control from the US, according to the JCS.
But the North said that changing the name of the military exercise cannot hide what it claimed is an “aggressive war game” against the regime.
“It is a miscalculation if they (South Korea) think that changing the name of the exercise can alter its aggressive nature or that we would make it pass off quietly,” Kwon said in the ministry statement.
“S---, though hard and dry, still stinks even if it is wrapped in a flowered cloth.”
North Korea test fires a new weapon, in this undated photo released on Sunday. (Yonhap)
Pyongyang also mocked Seoul for failing to accurately assess the projectiles that it has fired in recent weeks, directly criticizing the South Korean president and defense minister.
On Saturday, Pyongyang fired two projectiles into the East Sea from Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province, according to Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff -- the fifth launch in the past three weeks, and seventh this year.
The intelligence authorities of Seoul and Washington assessed that they were short-range ballistic missiles, but the North said it had tested a “new weapon system” that has “advantageous tactical character” different from its existing weapons systems.
“Last time, it became a global laughing stock when it lost its head because it had failed to calculate properly the range of the power demonstration firing of our army,” Kwon said. “It is really a sight to see.”
Seoul maintains that all projectiles launched by Pyongyang in the past weeks are short-range ballistic missiles, but the North had said it successfully test-fired large-caliber multiple rocket launchers on two occasions.
In the Foreign Ministry statement, Kwon also denounced Seoul for objecting to its launches, saying that even the US president approved of the missile tests.
“With regard to our test for developing conventional weapons, even the US president made a remark which in effect recognizes the self-defense rights of a sovereign state, saying that it is a small missile test which a lot of countries do,” Kwon said.
“But the South Korean authorities call the building of our self-defense armed forces as a military tension while urging to stop it. Then, how can the South Korean authorities have the cheek to utter such nonsense?”
On Saturday, US President Donald Trump said he had received a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in which he expressed his will to restart denuclearization negotiations after the South Korea-US military exercise is over.
“In a letter to me sent by Kim Jong-un, he stated, very nicely, that he would like to meet and start negotiations as soon as the joint US/South Korea joint exercise are over,” Trump said on Twitter.
Trump also said Kim offered a “small apology” for testing the short-range missiles, and that it would stop after the exercises end.
By Jo He-rim (firstname.lastname@example.org)