Annual joint U.S.-South Korean military drills must be suspended if Washington “sincerely” hopes to hold talks with Pyongyang, North Korean ruling party organ the Rodong Sinmun said on Tuesday.
In a commentary, the DPRK’s most widely-circulated newspaper said such “provocative statements and behaviors” represented “intolerable ridicule.”
“The reason why we’ve strongly urged the U.S. to stop joint military exercises is that the drills only cause harm to easing tensions on the Korean peninsula,” the newspaper said in a commentary.
Washington’s handling of the issue would represent a key indicator of whether the U.S. wanted peace or war, it continued, insisting that Pyongyang would be skeptical of any regime security guarantees while the exercises were ongoing.
“If the U.S. sincerely hopes for talks, it shouldn’t play the game of threatening and blackmailing its dialogue counterpart with its power,” the Rodong said.
“The issue of guaranteeing security that the U.S. is concerned about can never be resolved unless it suspends its statements and behaviors provoking us.”
The Rodong on Tuesday argued the annual exercises represented “a dangerous racket of playing with fire in front of the door of somebody’s house.”
“If the U.S. threatens us with continuously staging the aggressive combined military drills colluding with South Korea, the U.S. security will become seriously dangerous to that extent.”
Seoul and Washington typically begin the annual and large-scale Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) exercise in August.
This year’s drills, however, will likely overlap with a planned reunion of families separated by Korean War – set to take place on August 15.
Defense ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo said last week that there was “no change” on South Korea’s position that the exercise will go ahead.
When asked about this morning’s Rodong commentary, Choi on Tuesday told press the South and the U.S. had not yet held any talks on the UFG exercise and there will be “no specific changes.”
“It’s international practice to restraining military action if both parties in warfare declare negotiations,” the Rodong insisted on Tuesday, warning Washington that it is “quite obvious that everything will return to the original state if the joint military drills are staged.”
ROK-U.S. joint military drills have long been a sensitive issue for the North, which claims they constitute a rehearsal for an invasion.
Pyongyang earlier in the month withdrew from planned inter-Korean high-level talks at the last minute, citing pending issues including the-then ongoing joint Max Thunder exercise.
Last Friday saw a researcher from the DPRK Foreign Ministry’s Disarmament and Peace Institute of issued a commentary entitled “Who Is to Blame for Escalation of Tensions on Korean Peninsula” denouncing the Max Thunder exercise.
“As long as the U.S. and South Korea continue to hold joint military exercises… it would be hard to guarantee the present trend toward détente and the peace and stability in the region,” the statement, carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), read.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: U.S. Pacific Command
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