About the Author
View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea’s ruling party daily on Tuesday warned that the South will “pay a painful price” for its staging of what it described as its “aggressive” military drills with the U.S.
The Rodong Sinmun article comes the same day that Seoul and Washington are set to complete a downscaled command post exercise (CPX), staged throughout the month as an alternative to the now-terminated Ulchi Freedom Guardian (UFG) drills.
The “large-scale joint military exercise undoubtedly shows the real characteristic of provocative war rehearsal of invading North Korea,” the newspaper, an organ of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), said in a Korean-language commentary written by Sim Chol Yong.
“The joint command post exercise staged by the South Korean war maniacs with the U.S. is an overt hostile act…and an unacceptable military provocation,” it continued.
“We did not sound a note warning only once or twice against the senseless act of the South Korean authorities,” the commentary said, accusing Seoul of conducting a “military confrontation racket targeting fellow countrymen in coordination with foreign powers.”
The South has aggravated the situation, it continued, by deploying the “latest armed equipment,” carrying out the joint military drills, and by including a component aimed at preparing for a potential regime collapse in the North.
“The South Korean military war-like forces are instigating the deterioration of a situation … in spite of our repeated warnings,” it said.
“This time, that has led to a large-scale joint military exercise including the ‘operations of stabilizing North Korea’ which is an extreme provocation against us.”
The military drills’ stability planning, the Rodong Sinmun claimed, simulated a possible scenario in which the U.S. and ROK armies would need to maintain public order in occupied areas of the North.
“This clearly demonstrates that ‘joint command post exercise’ is an extremely provocative war gamble aimed at invading and crushing our Republic to death.”
This is not the first time that Seoul and Washington have carried out these kinds of operations, which, according to the Pentagon, aim to “maintain or reestablish a safe and secure environment, provide essential governmental services, emergency infrastructure reconstruction, and humanitarian relief.”
In the commentary, the North Korean party daily said that past tensions have demonstrated that joint military drills can have “detrimental consequences for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and inter-Korean relations.”
History, the Rodong Sinmun continued, dictates what kind of costs that “war maniacs who rampage about military provocations while hurting fellow countrymen” will pay.
“The South Korean war maniacs — who go ahead with aggressive joint military drills with a foreign power challenging the nation’s orientation toward the alleviation of tensions, peace, and unification — will pay a painful price for this foolish act.”
Full-scale joint military drills kicked off on August 11 following a preliminary four-day Crisis Management Staff Training (CMST).
The ROK military has insisted that the CPX is aimed at verifying the initial operational capability (IOC) ahead of the planned transfer of wartime operational control (OPCON) from the U.S. to South Korea.
But the Rodong Sinmun on Tuesday warned that the “aggressive and provocative nature” of the drills cannot be concealed even if their name is changed, saying that the “gimlet in the sack can never be hidden.”
“The facade of the ‘joint command post exercise’ covered with the purpose of deceiving the domestic and foreign public opinion has been completely removed.”
Citing South Korean outlets, the Rodong Sinmun claimed that Operational Plan 5015 (OPLAN 5015) would be applied in the joint military drills, describing it as a “diabolical scenario of aggressive war.”
Tuesday’s “signed commentary tracks with North Korea’s toning down of anti-military drills rhetoric after the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country (CPRC) spokesperson’s press statement on August 16,” one expert said.
“Pyongyang opted to issue a lower-level party daily commentary instead of releasing the higher-level Foreign Ministry or CPRC pronouncements as it did over the past few weeks,” Rachel Minyoung Lee, a senior analyst with NK News‘s sister NK Pro, said.
The article also comes amid a broader spate of anti-South Korean statements by North Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the CPRC in recent weeks.
Thursday saw a CPRC spokesperson reject South Korean President Moon’s Liberation Day calls for renewed dialogue between two Koreas, stressing that Pyongyang has no intention to hold talks with Seoul in the near future.
Earlier in the month, an official from North Korean foreign ministry’s Department of American Affairs said inter-Korean contact would be “difficult” until Seoul ended the joint drills or gave a “plausible excuse” for having allowed them to go ahead.
August 5 also saw Pyongyang warn it may be forced to “develop, test and deploy the powerful physical means” in a press statement delivered by an MFA spokesperson.
“This makes sense as today is the last day of the military drills, and North Korea already has made its point through the series of weapons launches and official statements the past few weeks,” Lee, the NK Pro analyst, said.
“The softened rhetoric also seems to indicate that the North may be gearing up to resume working-level talks with the U.S. now that the exercises are coming to an end.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: U.S. Army