North Korea has reacted angrily to a decision by the United States and South Korea to push ahead with their joint military drills on the Korean Peninsula, warning the duo will have to face a more serious security threat as Pyongyang would definitely move to boost its defense and pre-emptive strike capabilities.
The allied militaries will begin four days of preliminary training on Tuesday, followed by a ten-day computer-simulated drill in mid-August.
Kim Yo-jong, an influential figure on the North's political stage, and the sister of leader Kim Jong-un Kim, said that “a dear price should be paid” by Seoul and Washington for their “self-destructive behavior.”
“The dangerous war exercises pushed ahead by the US and the South Korean side disregardful of our repeated warnings will surely make them face more serious security threat,” Pyongyang’s official news agency KCNA quoted her as saying.
She expressed her deep regret for the "treacherous" behavior of the South Korean authorities, despite a recent thaw on the Korean Peninsula.
The two Koreas have recently resumed an effort to reset their relations, planning to reopen a liaison office and hold a summit.
Last month, the two neighbors restored cross-border communications after more than a year. North's leader and South Korean President Moon Jae-in also exchanged several personal letters in what was viewed as an attempt toward de-escalation.
Kim, an advisor to her brother, also warned that Pyongyang will “put more spur to further increasing the deterrent of absolute capacity to cope with the ever-growing military threats from the US.”
“The reality has proven that only practical deterrence, not words, can guarantee peace and security of the Korean Peninsula, and that it is an imperative for us to build up power to strongly contain external threats,” she added.
She also said there won’t be stabilized peace on the Peninsula unless Washington withdraws its troops and weapons from the South.
The US has about 28,500 troops stationed in the South.
The North has been strongly critical of the joint Washington-Seoul spring and summer drills, saying the hostile exercises are indeed a rehearsal for an invasion in a likely future war.
Seoul and Washington had previously scaled back the war games significantly to facilitate nuclear talks with Pyongyang.
Three rounds of talks were held between former US president Donald Trump and North Korea's Kim, but the diplomatic push failed to deliver any breakthrough as Trump refused to reciprocate Pyongyang's denuclearization steps by easing the sanctions. That prompted Kim to end the moratorium on North Korea's missile tests.
The South's President Moon, who is credited with brokering the first ever summit between North Korea and a sitting US president, was reportedly looking to downsize the drills.
A group of more than 70 lawmakers in Moon’s progressive camp issued a joint statement last week calling for the exercises to be postponed to help improve ties with Pyongyang.