North continues denouncing drillsFollowing almost daily criticism of the ongoing Seoul-Washington joint defense exercises, North Korea denounced the drills again yesterday but refrained from any military provocations ahead of its participation in the upcoming Incheon Asian Games.
The Rodong Sinmun, the official mouthpiece of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party, issued statements over the weekend criticizing the Ulchi Freedom Guardian drills between South Korea and the United States, vowing to stage “a strong physical measure” against the exercises.
“The UFG is aimed at helping the United States dominate South Korea permanently,” a column in the newspaper said yesterday. “The purpose of the United States is to turn the Korean Peninsula into the biggest hot spot [in the world] through staging military provocations like the UFG and infinitely occupying South Korea in the name of peace and security.
“South Korea’s pushing forward with the UFG is an anti-national, anti-people act with ambition to invade the North,” the article continued. “We can’t think about anything like peace on the Korean Peninsula or peaceful unification [of the two Koreas] while those traitors are running amok there.”
The annual military drills, which started Aug. 18, are scheduled to run through Sept. 29 in South Korean waters.
In response to the North’s public condemnation of the regular exercises and demands for Seoul to scrap them, South Korea and the United States maintain they are for self-defense.
Yet in contrast with its criticisms, Pyongyang has not launched a missile or retaliated with any military provocations. The Communist country is also continuing its preparations to send a delegation of athletes to the Incheon Asian Games in September.
South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, which is in charge of all inter-Korean interactions, announced that Pyongyang had notified it of a plan to send 273 people, including 150 athletes, to the games scheduled between Sept. 19 and Oct. 4.
Kim Eui-do, spokesman of the Unification Ministry, said at a briefing on Friday that North Korea’s Olympic Committee sent an official letter to Seoul notifying it of the delegation’s scale through North Korean officials visiting the South on Tuesday to attend a draw for the football tournament.
The number of athletes in the delegation, however, has been reduced to 273 from the 350 the regime previously told Seoul it would send, the spokesman said. He added that Pyongyang did not mention why it trimmed down the size of the group.
But in response to South Korea’s previous proposal to hold low-level talks to discuss the dispatch of North Korean athletes and cheerleaders, Pyongyang proposed that the matter should be discussed through letters rather than in face-to-face meetings.
The North has not mentioned anything about sending another group of cheerleaders, which became a controversial issue between the two Koreas at previous low-level talks in July.
North Korean negotiators walked away when officials from the South told them that they would “apply international customs,” implying that the state would not pay for the cost.
At the Friday briefing, spokesman Kim said the government would not stick to “international customs” after all but “will consider previous cases between the two Koreas,” referring to former sports events held in the South.
BY KIM HEE-JIN [firstname.lastname@example.org]