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Chad O'Carroll has written on North Korea since 2010 and writes between London and Seoul.
North Korea on Friday rejected South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s Liberation Day call to rekindle inter-Korean talks, saying it had “no intention” to resume dialogue with Seoul even after joint U.S.-ROK military drills end later in the month.
The statement, issued through the North Korean ruling party’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC), questioned the purpose of dialogue given recent events in the South.
“Even at this moment, there go on in south Korea joint military exercises against the DPRK,” an English-language version of the statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) read. “Does [Moon] have any face to talk about dialogue atmosphere, peaceful economy and peace-keeping mechanism?”
“We have nothing to talk any more with the south Korean authorities nor have any idea to sit with them again,” the remarks continued.
The statement went on to slam South Korea’s recent import of two advanced F-35A stealth fighter jets and U.S. drone technology, as well as the purpose of ongoing U.S.-ROK military exercises – which includes a component on South Korea’s capability to retake operational control over forces from the U.S. during wartime.
“[Moon] often calls for peace,” the statement said. “Then is he going to make an excuse that the drones and fighters being purchased from the U.S. are just for spreading agrochemicals and for circus flights?”
“How can he explain the ‘mid-term defence plan’ aiming at developing and securing the capabilities of precision guided weapon, electromagnetic impulse shell, multi-purpose large transport ship, etc. whose missions are to strike the entire region of the northern half of the Republic.”
The statement also condemned Moon’s Liberation Day speech remarks for hailing the fact that the atmosphere for dialogue had not been tempered by recent missile tests by the North – testing Pyongyang has repeatedly insisted is within its rights as a sovereign state.
“What can not but be pointed out is that he said the dialogue atmosphere was not marred despite some recent ‘worrisome acts’ of north Korea and that things have changed from that in the past when the Korean Peninsula vibrated owing to a single ‘provocation’ by north Korea” it said.
The CPRC statement also saw Pyongyang reject the South Korean President promise to work to convince the North to choose economic development over its weapons program.
“He, wearing a still look on his face, bluffs that he would help north Korea opt for economy and prosperity, not nukes,” it said, adding that it is “obvious that he is overcome with fright” in the face of recent demonstrations of North Korean military might.
As a result, the “implementation of the historic Panmunjom declaration is now at a deadlock and the power for the north-south dialogue is divested,” the remarks contniued, due to “the natural outcome of the wayward acts of the south Korean chief executive.”
The DPRK’s latest missive, notably, comes after two recent North Korean foreign ministry statements, both of which derided South Korea in blunt terms, and over six months since Seoul and Pyongyang last held high-level talks.
In August, director general of the foreign ministry’s North American affairs bureau Kwon Jong Gun demanded Seoul end August’s joint exercises with the U.S. or provide a “plausible” explanation for them before dialogue between the two Koreas can go ahead.
A statement from the DPRK foreign ministry in June, too, warned that South Korea should not try to “intervene…in the DPRK-U.S. talks…as if they were mediating the relationship between the DPRK and the U.S.”’
But Friday’s CPRC statement suggests that even when ongoing U.S.-ROK exercises conclude at the end of the month, Seoul will have a difficult time bringing Pyongyang to the table for dialogue.
“The South Korean authorities are snooping about to fish in troubled waters in the future DPRK-U.S. dialogue, dreaming that the phase of dialogue would naturally arrive after the join military exercises just as the natural change of the time of the year,” it said.
Rachel Minyoung Lee, a senior analyst with NK Pro, therefore described Friday’s statement as being a “swift, relatively high-level reaction to President Moon’s references to the North’s recent military actions and what it perceived to be Moon taking credit for fostering an atmosphere of dialogue.
She said unconditional wording towards the end of the statement indicated that “North Korea is altogether shutting the door to inter-Korean cooperation and dialogue for the foreseeable future.”
“Normally when Pyongyang wants to leave room for dialogue, it issues conditional warnings or urges South Korea to rethink its policy,” she said.
“That said, this pronouncement was not carried by North Korean domestic media, suggesting Pyongyang is leaving some flexibility as to its future course of action with South Korea, depending on Seoul’s actions.”
Asked what South Korean President Moon Jae-in had done to deserve repeated rejection from North Korea in recent months, one long-time analyst said “frankly, not a great deal.”
“North Korea’s response is true to type, maps onto recent history of inter-Korean relations, and reflects senior defectors’ explanations of North Korean strategic thinking,” said Christopher Green, a researcher with the International Crisis Group.
“If South Korea were willing to abrogate the alliance and expel U.S. troops from the peninsula then maybe Seoul would see a more amenable North Korean face, but short of that, North Korea’s general demeanor ought to have been anticipated,” he continued.
As a result, the consistent rejections seem intended to push Seoul to do one of three things, Green said.
“Abrogate the alliance and expel the U.S.; defy the U.S. by reopening Kaesong and Mt Kumgang; or pursuade the U.S. to soften its stance. Either way, it puts Seoul and Washington on a collision course,” he continued.
“It is to both sides’ credit that they have avoided that collision so far, and will probably continue to do so.”
Jeongmin Kim contributed to this report
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: NK News