PYONGYANG, North Korea. — A senior North Korean official has denounced South Korea over its joint military exercises with the United States, which are due to begin this week, warning that such actions risked provoking “a serious security crisis.”
“They must be made to clearly understand how dearly they have to pay for answering our good faith with hostile acts after letting go the opportunity for improved inter-Korean relations,” Kim Yong Chol said in the statement, released on state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
Kim, who was Pyongyang’s former spymaster and who served as former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s counterpart during talks with Washington, said authorities in Seoul were “defying the opportunity” to improve relations on the Korean Peninsula by conducting “frantic military exercises regarding our state as the enemy.”
His comments come as Pyongyang stopped responding to a hotline set up between the two Koreas, less than a month after communication was restored following an agreement with Seoul in late July.
Usually the two Koreas will check in with each other over the hotlines twice a day to ensure smooth relations between the two neighboring nations, but South Korea’s Unification and Defense ministries said Pyongyang did not pick up the phone on Tuesday, according to Reuters.
The US and South Korea began their preliminary training Tuesday, with official computer-simulated drills taking place between August 16 and 26, according to local media.
Speaking on Monday, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said he had no specific response to the North Korean statements but emphasized the drills were “purely defensive” in nature.
Price said the US “harbors no hostile intent” toward North Korea but remained committed to the security of South Korea.
Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korea leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday warned that the US and South Korea would “face a more serious security threat” for ignoring repeated warnings against their joint military drills.
She said peace on the Korean Peninsula would never be achieved unless “war equipment deployed by the US in South Korea” is removed.
The annual drills — which were a cornerstone and recent common feature of the defense relationship between the two militaries — have been scaled back in recent years, including in 2018 to help facilitate dialogue on dismantling the North’s nuclear program and in 2019 following the failed summit in Hanoi between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Drills in 2020 and this year were also scaled back due to the coronavirus pandemic, with training focused on computer simulations, according to local media.