The Koreas

North Korea: No Talks With South Korea Until Seoul Gives ‘Plausible Excuse’ For Joint Exercises

The prospect of a return to inter-Korean diplomacy appears unlikely in August 2019.

North Korea: No Talks With South Korea Until Seoul Gives ‘Plausible Excuse’ For Joint Exercises
Credit: Illustration by Catherine Putz

North Korea continues to bristle at the ongoing U.S.-South Korea command post exercises. In a statement released over the weekend attributed to director-general of the foreign ministry’s Department of American Affairs Kwon Jong Gun, Pyongyang lashed out, saying inter-Korean contact would be “difficult” without the cancellation of the ongoing exercises.

The statement follows accusations by Pyongyang that the ongoing U.S.-South Korea alliance exercises are violations of the June 2018 U.S.-North Korea Singapore declaration, the April 2018 inter-Korean declaration at Panmunjom, and the September 2018 inter-Korean Pyongyang declaration.

“Given that the military exercise clearly puts us as an enemy in its concept, (South Korea) should think that an inter-Korean contact itself will be difficult to be made unless they put an end to such a military exercise or before they make a plausible excuse or an explanation in a sincere manner for conducting the military exercise,” Kwon’s said in his statement.

The statement accompanied the release by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency, its externally focused propaganda arm, of images a missile test conducted Saturday morning. The missile tested was a new type of system resembling the U.S. MGM-140 ATACMS tactical ballistic missile. The test followed U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s announcement that he had received another letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Trump said that Kim had reportedly apologized in the letter for the flurry of testing of short-range ballistic missile systems. Trump had earlier called that kind of testing “very standard,” despite the fact that multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions call on Pyongyang to cease the testing of any ballistic missiles.

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Kwong’s statement cited Trump’s remarks on North Korea’s missile tests. “With regard to our test for developing the conventional weapons, even the U.S. president made a remark which in effect recognizes the self-defensive rights of a sovereign state, saying that it is a small missile test which a lot of countries do,” he said.

The ongoing U.S.-South Korea exercises are expected to conclude on August 20. North Korea has suggested that it would conduct exercises of its own while the alliance conducts exercises. Pyongyang has also recently cited its grievances over South Korea taking delivery of two new F-35A Panther stealth fighters in July, citing them as contrary to the spirit of last year’s inter-Korean agreements.

No working-level talks between the United States and North Korea have taken place since the June 30 meeting between Trump and Kim at the inter-Korean Military Demarcation Line. At that meeting, Trump and Kim agreed to resume working-level talks. North Korea also said that Trump had given Kim his word that he would cancel the now-ongoing exercises.