North Korea not choosing up hotlines after warning South, U.S. over joint drills By Reuters
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A North Korean flag flies next to accordion wire at the North Korean embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia March 9, 2017. REUTERS / Edgar Su
By Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith
SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea failed to answer routine calls to inter-Korean hotlines on Tuesday, South Korea said hours after a senior official in Pyongyang warned the South and the United States of annual joint military exercises due to begin this week.
Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un, accused South Korea of ”perfidious behavior” for continuing the exercises after North Korea agreed to restore hotlines in late July after it was cut last year amid rising tensions.
South Korea and the United States will hold computer-simulated exercises next week, but pre-training began on Tuesday, military sources told Reuters.
In a statement from North Korean state news agency KCNA, Kim Yo Jong said the exercises were “an act of self-destruction that should be paid a heavy price because it threatens the safety of our people and the situation on the Korean peninsula.”
“They are the most vivid expression of hostile US policy towards (North Korea) aimed at suffocating our state by force,” she said.
The two Koreas typically use the hotlines twice a day, and North Korean officials, as usual, answered morning calls on hotlines operated by the South Korean military and the Unification Ministry, which regulates relations with the North.
But when the South made calls in the late afternoon, they went unanswered, the Ministries of Defense and Association said.
The nuclear-armed North’s response to the exercises also threatens to undo South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s efforts to reopen a joint liaison office https://www.reuters.com/world/china/exclusive-north -south-korea- talks-over-summit-reopening-liaison-office-sources-2021-07-28 /? taid = 6100faa3cb40370001903d27 & utm_campaign = trueAnthem: + Trending + Content & utm_medium = trueAnthem & utm_source = twitter efforts to restore relationships.
A US Department of Defense spokesman declined to comment on the North Korean statement, saying it was against policy to comment on the training.
“Combined training events are a bilateral decision between the Republic of Korea and the US, and all decisions are made by mutual agreement,” said spokesman Martin Meiners, using the initials of South Korea’s official name.
A spokesman for the South Korean Ministry of Defense declined to comment on the preliminary exercises during a briefing Tuesday, saying the two countries would still discuss the timing, scope and method of the regular exercises.
The South Korean Unification Ministry said in a statement that it would not speculate about North Korea’s intentions but rather prepare for all possibilities.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said Pyongyang could position itself ahead of future talks with South Korea and the US.
“Although (Kim) mentioned ‘perfidious behavior’, her tone seemed reluctant because, unlike before, she did not threaten certain measures,” he said.
The United States has retained around 28,500 soldiers in South Korea – a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War that ended in a ceasefire rather than a peace agreement and left the peninsula in a state of technical warfare.
Joint military exercises have been scaled back in recent years to facilitate talks aimed at convincing Pyongyang to dismantle its nuclear and missile programs in exchange for the lifting of US sanctions.
But the negotiations failed in 2019, and while both North Korea and the United States open up to diplomacy, both also say it is on the other side to take action.
Kim said US military action had shown Washington’s talk of diplomacy was a hypocritical cover for aggression on the peninsula and that peace would only be possible if the United States reduced its forces in the south.
North Korea will step up its “deterrent of absolute capacity”, including for a “powerful preemptive strike” to counter the ever-growing military threat posed by the US, she said.