News ID: 315452
Published: 0239 GMT August 10, 2021

North Korea not picking up hotlines after warning South, U.S. over joint drills

North Korea not picking up hotlines after warning South, U.S. over joint drills

North Korea did not answer routine calls on inter-Korean hotlines on Tuesday, South Korea said, hours after a senior official in Pyongyang warned the South and the United States over annual joint military drills set to begin this week.

Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, accused South Korea of "perfidious behaviour" for going ahead with the drills after North Korea agreed to restore hotlines in late July, having cut them last year amid rising tensions.

South Korea and the United States are set to hold computer-simulated exercises next week, but preliminary training began on Tuesday, military sources told Reuters.

In a statement carried by North Korean news agency KCNA, Kim Yo Jong said the exercises were an "act of self-destruction for which a dear price should be paid as they threaten the safety of our people and further imperil the situation on the Korean peninsula".

"They are the most vivid expression of the U.S. hostile policy towards (North Korea), designed to stifle our state by force," she said.

The two Koreas typically check in over the hotlines twice a day, and North Korean officials answered morning calls as usual on hotlines maintained by South Korea's military as well as on those used by the Unification Ministry, which handles relations with the North.

But when the South made calls in the late afternoon they were unanswered, the ministries of unification and defence said.

The nuclear-armed North's reaction to the drills could undermine upend efforts by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to reopen a joint liaison office that Pyongyang blew up last year, and to hold a summit as part of efforts to restore relations.

South Korea's Unification Ministry said in a statement that it would not speculate on North Korea's intentions but would prepare for all possibilities.

The United States has kept around 28,500 troops in South Korea – a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in an armistice rather than a peace deal, leaving the peninsula in a technical state of war.

The joint military exercises were scaled back in recent years to facilitate talks aimed at denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula in return for U.S. sanctions relief for the North.

But the negotiations collapsed in 2019, and while both North Korea and the United States say they are open to diplomacy, both also say it is up to the other side to take action.

Kim said U.S. military actions showed that Washington's talk of diplomacy is a hypocritical cover for aggression on the peninsula, and that peace would only be possible if the United States dismantled its military force in the South.

North Korea would boost its "deterrent of absolute capacity", including for "powerful preemptive strike", to counter the ever-increasing U.S. military threat, she said.


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