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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea’s most widely-circulated daily newspaper on Thursday warned Washington against attempting to impede improving inter-Korean ties, in an editorial intended to offer the Trump administration “advice” for the New Year.
The Korean-language editorial, carried by ruling party organ the Rodong Simun, expressed frustration over the slow pace of plans for inter-Korean rail and road connection and modernization.
Officials in Washington are provoking the “deep concern of the entire nation,” it said, by calling for Seoul to “adjust the speed” of warming inter-Korean ties and asking that they develop in parallel with improving DPRK-U.S. relations.
“The inter-Korean relations can never be an appendage of the DPRK-U.S. ties,” the newspaper said, stressing the independence of the relationship between the North and the South.
Washington’s interference in inter-Korean relations, it continued, constituted a “grave infringement of one nation’s autonomy.”
“It is high time for the U.S. to change its stance and attitude toward the North-South relations,” it said, adding Pyongyang “will never allow” the U.S. to slow the advance of inter-Korean ties.
Washington “should abandon its outdated way of thinking,” the article said, claiming the U.S. understood the issue solely “from the perspective of imposing sanctions and pressure on the DPRK.”
“In the last year, the U.S. could have more deeply realized that the relationship between the North and the South does not hurt U.S. strategic interests, and it could rather be helpful and indispensable to [Washington].”
The Rodong urged the Trump administration to make a realistic judgment on “what is more urgent for the U.S.: denuclearization or military hegemony in Asia.”
Washington fears the end of its hegemony in Asia, the editorial added, and is concerned that it will lose influence on the peninsula as the two Koreas move towards the improvement of relations and the unification.
“It is no exaggeration to say that the argument about adjusting the speed is… essentially a hostile policy against the DPRK, newly devised by the U.S.”
In a message to Seoul, the Rodong also reported “several issues” in the process of implementing inter-Korean agreements, while praising the “remarkable and inconceivable changes between the two Koreas in the last year.”
“But the North-South relationship is in a stalemate in the sense that it only has a format without any content… there has been a blare without any action.”
Recent inter-Korean plans to connect and modernize rails and roads on the peninsula were provided as one example of how U.S. influence has had an “adverse effect on national reconciliation and development.”
The Rodong downplayed the significant of groundbreaking ceremony held in December, describing it as “meaningful” but “imperfect” due to the lack of progress on the rail and road connections.
Seoul has claimed that event marked the beginning of the project rather than the start of “full-scale construction,” promising to push ahead with the plans in step with progress on denuclearization and within the framework of international sanctions against the DPRK.
The Rodong this week complained that Seoul was seeking “approval” for the project to go ahead, describing the slow progress as “another tragedy forcibly caused by foreign power.”
The Trump administration has “monitored and seized control of the progress of the North-South relationship case by case,” it continued, with the creation in November of a ROK-U.S. working group on DPRK issues cited as but one example of U.S. meddling.
“In the end, the current inter-Korean relations could not make any advancement like a spring which returns to an original place when being pulled and released.”
The editorial also claimed that the development of the North-South relationship would lead to improvements in DPRK-U.S. ties, saying the “world recognized the fact” that the first-ever DPRK-U.S. summit took place after “gaining momentum from the dramatic turnabout in inter-Korean relations.”
“As one South Korean expert assesses, it is the reality that inter-Korean relations solely made an initial step and the DPRK-U.S. ties have not taken one step forward the summit in Singapore,” the Rodong said.
“If [Washington] says inter-Korean relations should not get ahead of the DPRK-U.S. ties, this means, so to speak, that [the U.S.] will do nothing while preventing others from making progress.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Joint Inter-Korean Summit Press Corps