Senior politician Kim Yong Chol’s statement came on Wednesday, a day after the US and South Korean military began preliminary training ahead of next week’s annual exercises. Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has also called on Washington to withdraw its forces from the peninsula.
Kim Yong Chol said South Korea must be brought to “a clear understanding of how much it has to pay dearly” for choosing its alliance with Washington over peace between the Koreas.
The South had responded to the “good faith of the North with acts of hostility”, he said, after “having missed the opportunity to improve inter-Korean relations”.
“We will make them realize up to the minute what a dangerous choice they made and what a serious security crisis they will face because of their bad choice,” he added.
Kim Yong Chol is a senior official in the ruling Workers’ Party and was Kim Jong Un’s envoy ahead of a summit in Hanoi in 2019, meeting with US President Donald Trump in Washington.
The Kim-Trump summit collapsed over sanctions relief and what the nuclear-weaponized North would be willing to give up in return, and talks have since largely stalled.
But in a surprisingly conciliatory move last month, Seoul and Pyongyang restored cross-border communications that were cut over a year ago, announcing that their leaders had agreed to work on improving relations. The new outbreak, however, casts doubt on South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s goal of improving relations with Pyongyang in the final year of his presidency. It also raises the prospect of further testing of North Korean missiles, which Pyongyang has often done in the past to signal its dissatisfaction.
Adding to concerns, the South Korean government said Wednesday that North Korea had not responded to routine calls on the hotline for the second day in a row.
The South also called on Pyongyang to respond to its offers of dialogue and said “increased military tensions on the Korean Peninsula would not help anyone.”
The United States, for its part, stressed that its exercises with South Korea were “purely defensive in nature.”
“As we have long argued, the United States has no hostile intention towards the DPRK,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday, using the initials of the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“We support the inter-Korean dialogue, we support the inter-Korean engagement and will continue to work with our (South Korean) partners to this end. “
Analysts said Pyongyang could use scathing rhetoric to strengthen its influence in future negotiations, wrest concessions from South Korea, or distract from domestic economic crises.
“North Korea’s heightened rhetoric against cutting back on defense exercises between the United States and South Korea appears to be more a matter of domestic policy than reporting to Washington,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor at Seoul Ewha University, in an email to reporters. “Kim’s regime is blaming its struggles to restart the economy after a long, self-imposed pandemic lockdown.
“Pyongyang is also trying to pressure South Korean presidential candidates to express differences with US sanctions and denuclearization policy. ”