Updated at 1515 KST: this article has been updated to include a response from South Korea’s defence ministry.
A spokesperson for North Korea’s military on Friday condemned a recent round of military drills by South Korea, warning that relations between the two Koreas stood to worsen to pre-2018 levels should Seoul continue its “deliberate pursuit of confrontation.”
In a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), an unnamed spokesperson for the North’s Ministry of the People’s Armed Forces slammed a round of joint exercises by South Korea’s air force and navy on Wednesday in the country’s West Sea.
“Such reckless move of the military warmongers of the south side is the height of the military confrontation which would leave tongue-tied even their master, who responded to every military drill staged by us with words like halt and regretful, saying it does not help the efforts to defuse tension on the Korean peninsula,” the official said.
“Everything is now going back to the starting point before the north-south summit meeting in 2018,” they continued, a reference to the three inter-Korean summits — and a landmark North-South military agreement — signed that year.
Wednesday’s drill served as a “total denial and an open perfidy” of that agreement, the North Korean official said Friday, noting that it took place in the West Sea — previously the site of several clashes between the two Koreas’ militaries.
The official also condemned Seoul’s description of the recent drills as having been aimed at responding to potential unnamed “enemies,” warning that South Korea’s conducting of the exercises “demands a necessary reaction” from Pyongyang.
“This is a grave provocation which can never be overlooked and this situation demands a necessary reaction from us,” they said. “It is no more than the deliberate pursuit of confrontation the excuse for which can never be made.”
“The recent drill served as an opportunity which awakened us once again to the obvious fact that the enemies remain enemies all the time. Should we remain a passive onlooker when the enemy gets zealous while openly calling for an attack on us?”
The South Korean Ministry of National Defence (MND) later in the day defended the recent drills, dismissing Pyongyang’s claims that they had violated the inter-Korean military agreement.
“The joint exercise was a defense training conducted in the western waters off Gunsan,” an MND official said, in comments carried by Seoul’s Yonhap News Agency. “It was carried out in compliance with the Sept. 19 agreement.”
Friday’s statement comes just a few days after a rare exchange of fire between the two Koreas over the weekend along the central front of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
Seoul later said the gunshots from the North appeared not to be an intentional provocation, however, and reported no damage to equipment and no casualties.
North Korea was also reported to have conducted a test of a cruise missile on April 14 — a test that, notably, went unmentioned by the country’s state media.
In addition, the North may be preparing for a major military parade in Pyongyang, according to sources in the North Korean capital and satellite imagery.
Updated at 1515 KST: this article has been updated to include a response from South Korea's defence ministry.
A spokesperson for North Korea's military on Friday condemned a recent round of military drills by South Korea, warning that relations between the two Koreas stood to worsen to pre-2018 levels should Seoul continue its "deliberate pursuit of confrontation."