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Pyongyang denounces joint drills

Inter-Korean relations agency claims South is staging attack exercises

Aug 10,2019
North Korea on Thursday called the South the “archcriminal harassing peace and stability” on the Korean Peninsula for conducting joint military exercises with the United States, warning the allies would “pay dearly” for threatening its security.

In a statement released to the state media, the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC), one of the North’s state agencies in charge of inter-Korean relations, claimed the South ignored Pyongyang’s warnings about holding combined military drills with the United States, which it said violated an inter-Korean military agreement signed last September in Pyongyang.

“The North and the South, in their agreement in the military field for implementing the Panmunjom declaration, agreed each other to completely halt all hostile acts of becoming the root cause of military tensions and conflicts on the ground and in the air and the sea and all other spaces,” the statement read. “But the south Korean authorities are staging North-targeted attack drills in camera in league with outsiders.”

The CPRC statement, delivered in the form of an open letter to the official Korean Central News Agency, also slammed Seoul for a “frantic arms build-up” shown in its induction of F-35A stealth fighters from the United States “in a bid to mount a ‘preemptive attack’” on North Korea.

Such complaints are only the latest in a series of remonstrations from Pyongyang on Seoul’s joint drills with Washington, which kicked off on Monday and are expected to continue into late this month. After it conducted its latest missile test on Tuesday, the North justified its action by saying it had sent the allies an “adequate warning” over their joint drills.

Seoul’s Ministry of Unification, the South’s agency roughly equivalent to the CPRC, responded to the North’s statement on Friday, calling for the establishment of a joint military committee between the two Koreas to defuse tension on the peninsula.

Such a proposal was agreed to by the two sides with their military agreement signed on Sept. 19 that had the aim of alleviating tension and building mutual confidence towards an eventual peace regime.

Yet with dialogue coming to a standstill after the collapse of nuclear negotiations in February, both sides have alleged that the other violated the spirit of the September agreement by staging acts of aggression with weapons tests or joint drills.

Seoul, however, has stuck by a softer approach in dealing with the North’s provocations, saying its exercises with the United States were purely defensive in nature and urging Pyongyang to resume diplomatic exchanges.

It has further tried to underscore this goodwill by offering food aid amid severe food shortages in the North, but Pyongyang has yet to respond on whether it is willing to accept the assistance, said Kim Eun-han, deputy ministry spokesperson.

In addition to conducting a string of weapons tests like this week’s missile launches, Pyongyang is also set to open a new plenary session of its rubber stamp legislature – the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) – on Aug. 29, according to state media Friday.
Kim said it was “unusual” that the North is holding another SPA session only four months after its previous one in April, though no further explanation was given.

Analysts say this move may be an attempt by the regime to beef up solidarity within its leadership ranks before engaging in a new round of nuclear negotiations with Washington and determine a new policy direction to alleviate the country’s troubled economy choked by international sanctions.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]



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