On Tuesday morning, the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement accusing South Korea and the United States of violating three agreements concluded with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018 as a result of the alliance’s decision to proceed with the ongoing late-summer military exercises, which began on Monday.
“This is an undisguised denial and a flagrant violation of June 12 DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement, Panmunjom Declaration and September Pyongyang Joint Declaration, all of which are agreements to establish new DPRK-U.S. relations and build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean peninsula,” the statement, attributed to a spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry, noted.
The statement was released shortly before North Korea launched two short-range ballistic missiles in its fourth launch event in less than two weeks. The missiles flew to a range of 450 kilometers with a maximum altitude of 37 kilometers, according to South Korean authorities. U.S. and South Korean assessments likened the missile to the KN23 quasi-ballistic short-range missile, which was last tested on July 25.
The North Korean statement, in addition to accusing the Seoul and Washington of having violated agreements, cited a long list of grievances, including the delivery of F-35A stealth fighters to South Korea and the recent U.S. decision to approve the sale of RQ-4 uncrewed reconnaissance aircraft to Seoul.
The statement criticized “aggressive war exercises,” including the springtime Dong Maeng exercises, which were an attempt by the alliance to replace the normally controversial Key Resolve and Foal Eagle military exercises with a calibrated version to facilitate diplomacy. The ongoing exercises, too, represent a toned-down replacement for the old Ulchi-Freedom Guardian late-summer computerized command post drills.
Apart from the exercises, North Korea criticized the United States for conducting a test of its Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system in March. The system is the only U.S. missile defense system that has been designed and tested to defend the U.S. homeland from intercontinental-range ballistic missiles. The statement also criticized U.S. testing of missiles, including of a Minuteman-III ICBM and Trident D5 submarine-launched ballistic missile earlier this year.
The Foreign Ministry statement left the door open for diplomacy, but suggested that progress would be “invisible as long as the hostile military moves continue.” U.S. President Donald J. Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last met on June 30 and agreed to reconvene working-level talks between the two countries. Those talks have yet to begin.
“The U.S. and south Korean authorities remain outwardly talkative about dialogue,” the statement continued. “But when they sit back, they sharpen a sword to do us harm.”
“If this is what they call ‘creative approach’ and ‘imaginative power beyond common sense,’ we will be compelled to seek a new road as we have already indicated,” the statement concluded, reiterating a message Kim Jong Un had delivered during his New Year’s Day address this year.