North Korea has warned that it would “counter the US by its own mode of counteraction” if Washington holds joint military exercises with Seoul.
“If the US finally holds joint military exercises while keeping sanctions on the DPRK (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), the DPRK will counter the US by its own mode of counteraction and the US will be made to own all responsibilities for the ensuing consequences,” North Korea’s official news agency KCNA said in its commentary on Saturday.
It emphasized that the exercises would jeopardize a nascent rapprochement between Pyongyang and Seoul.
KCNA quoted a North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying, “We will neither beg for dialogue nor evade the military option claimed by the US.”
“Whether peace desired by our nation and the rest of the world settles on the Korean Peninsula or a situation that no one desires is developed in the vicious cycle of confrontation depends entirely on the attitude of the US,” the spokesman said.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in told his American counterpart Donald Trump on March 1 that he intended to send a special envoy to Pyongyang in response to an invitation by Kim Jong-un, the North’s leader, following the recent Olympic-driven detente between the two Koreas.
“In response to the visit by North Korea’s special envoy Kim Yo Jong, … Moon conveyed to Trump his plans to dispatch a special envoy to the North soon,” Seoul’s presidential office said in a statement, following their phone conversation.
Yonhap news agency cited a South Korean presidential security adviser as saying on February 28 that Seoul and Washington had decided to launch a postponed joint military exercise in early April despite warnings by North Korea that the move might jeopardize reconciliation efforts on the peninsula.
The news agency quoted Moon Chung-in, the South Korean security adviser, as saying at a seminar in Washington that he was “aware the drills will begin in the first week of April” and expressed hope that dialog would begin between Pyongyang and Washington.
Seoul and Washington usually hold their two annual military drills, called Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, in March and April, with some 17,000 American troops and more than 300,000 South Korean soldiers participating in the exercises.
Pyongyang is highly critical of those exercises, considering them preparations to invade the North. In response, it has been developing its weapons programs.
During his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 23, Trump announced what he called America’s “largest-ever” tranche of sanctions against North Korea, in an attempt to increase pressure on the nuclear-armed country.
“Today I am announcing that we are launching the largest-ever set of new sanctions on the North Korean regime,” Trump said.
After his announcement, the US president also said on the same day that Washington might pursue “Phase Two” with Pyongyang should sanctions against the Asian country fail.
“We’ll have to see, I don’t think I’m going to exactly play that card. But we’ll have to see. If the sanctions don’t work, we’ll have to go Phase Two. And Phase Two may be a very rough thing. May be very, very unfortunate for the world. But hopefully the sanctions will work,” Trump added.
North Korea on February 25 censured the latest round of sanctions imposed by Washington against Pyongyang as an “act of war,” accusing the US administration of trying to undermine an improvement in inter-Korean relations triggered by the Winter Olympic Games in the South.
The condemnation came after the US Treasury blacklisted more than 50 North Korea-linked shipping companies, vessels, and trade businesses, imposing an asset freeze and barring US citizens from dealing with them.
The White House said any talks with North Korea must end its nuclear program.
North Korea on Saturday said it was willing to hold talks with the US but without any precondition.
Meanwhile, a senior Russian diplomat said on February 24 that Moscow and Washington should hold direct talks on North Korea.
“I’m sure that the dynamic development of the current situation on the Korean Peninsula calls for active Russo-American dialogue on this issue,” TASS news agency quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov as saying.
He added that Moscow had sent an invitation for talks to Joseph Yun, the US Special Representative for North Korea Policy, but noted that no date had been set yet.