South Korea’s Unification Ministry and Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that the North Koreans had left a regularly-scheduled call in the afternoon unanswered, even though they had answered one in the morning.
The two Koreas generally communicate over the hotline twice a day. They had agreed to rebuild trust two weeks ago by restoring the hotline, which had been offline for more than a year due to political acrimony.
The development came after Kim’s powerful sister, Kim Yo-jong, accused South Korea of “perfidious behavior” for pushing ahead with “dangerous war exercises.” The South Korea and the US are set to hold computer-simulated exercises next week, but preliminary training reportedly began on Tuesday.
In a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Tuesday, Kim Yo-jong said “a dear price should be paid” by South Korea and the US for their “self-destructive behavior,” because “they threaten the safety of our people and further imperil the situation on the Korean peninsula.”
“They are the most vivid expression of the US hostile policy towards [North Korea], designed to stifle our state by force,” she said, adding that her country would enhance its “deterrent of absolute capacity,” including for “powerful preemptive strike[s]” to respond to growing US military threats.
The United States maintains approximately 28,500 forces in South Korea, a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in a truce rather than a peace agreement, technically leaving the peninsula in a state of war.
Kim’s sister said US military actions showed that Washington’s claim of advocating diplomacy was a hypocritical cover for aggression on the peninsula, and that peace would be possible only if the US disbanded its military forces in the South.
The North has been strongly critical of the joint Washington-Seoul spring and summer drills, saying the hostile exercises are a rehearsal for an invasion.