+ A

Pyongyang accuses Seoul of hurting peace

May 14,2019
Despite jeopardizing negotiations with the United States with its recent missile tests, North Korea on Monday accused the South of endangering peace on the Korean Peninsula by conducting joint military exercises with Washington.

An editorial published in Uriminzokkiri, one of the North’s official outlets that covers the South, sharply dismissed South Korea’s claims that Pyongyang’s recent missile tests violated the commitment to peace made in a military agreement between the two countries in September. Calling the South’s military authorities “warmongers,” the piece argued that Seoul was increasing tensions by carrying out two weeks of joint drills called Dongmaeng with the U.S. Forces Korea starting earlier this month.

In addition, the editorial claimed the South’s amphibious exercises with the U.S. Marines last March, the recent testing of new F-35A fighters bought from Washington and the U.S.-led Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system were all acts that “destroyed peace and security on the Korean Peninsula” and stand as “blatant violations” of the inter-Korean military agreement.

“They make not a single mention of their own stinking actions yet put out all sorts of slander against our military’s regular training,” the editorial read. “This is nothing more than the extent of shamelessness.”

This aggressive essay was only one of several editorials that harshly criticized Seoul put out by the North’s state media in recent days.

Another Uriminzokkiri piece, also from Monday, focused on the F-35A tests that began in mid-April, saying the aerial drills testified to the South’s “collusion with foreign powers” to “prepare for a war of aggression” against the North. Such actions, the piece argued, were responsible for building a “dangerous atmosphere” that threatens to undermine the current peace process.

Only a day earlier, Pyongyang’s state media slammed Seoul’s plans to provide food aid to the North. It said the South’s citation of humanitarian reasons were empty words that made a mockery of their commitment to previous inter-Korean declarations. This was widely seen as an attempt to erode the South’s cooperation with the United States on international sanctions, as the North appears to want sanctions relief over food aid.

Toward Washington, however, the North’s state media made no mention of missile tests or military provocations, instead releasing on Sunday a Foreign Ministry response to the U.S. State Department’s recent statement on human rights in North Korea.

“The United States, by turning its back on the June 12 DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement committing to establish new bilateral relations, is taking the lead of hostile actions against the DPRK by instigating the anti-DPRK plotting agencies embedded with the inveterate repugnance for the DPRK,” the piece read, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. “This has laid bare the American ulterior intention that it does not want the improved DPRK-U.S. relations really, but seeks only to overthrow our system.”

An earlier editorial from last Wednesday on the Korean Central News Agency, another state mouthpiece, argued that it was the South that was focusing on Pyongyang’s earlier rocket launches on May 4 even after “the U.S. and Japan as well as the international community clarified the view that the recent strike drill was not a ‘breach of promise’.”

By making Seoul the target of its public outrage, Pyongyang may be pressuring the South to act independently from the United States to push forward economic cooperation projects that the leaders of the two Koreas had agreed to pursue at their earlier summits. Another commentary piece from the state-run outlet Arirang Meari published on Sunday cast doubts on the “sincerity” of the administration in Seoul’s wish to improve inter-Korean relations, claiming, for example, that it was reluctant to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex despite its ability to do so because it was “walking on eggshells in front of the U.S. and conservative forces.”

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]