N. Korea criticizes S. Korea over joint military drills with the U.S.

Alex Ressa, Aug. 12, 2019, 9:18 a.m.

From fool to feces, words rarely used of late by North Korea's foreign ministry appeared in a statement on Sunday when it criticized South Korea over its joint military training with the United States.

Calling the ongoing drill an "aggressive war exercise" against the North, Kwon Jong-gun, the North Korean foreign ministry's director-general of the department of American affairs, warned that inter-Korean dialogue will remain suspended until Seoul gives a "plausible excuse" over the exercise.

It was only the latest in a series of similar statements that criticized the exercise, but this time, the North Korean official went on to compare South Korean authorities to a "fool," the South Korean presidential office to a "shy dog" and the allies' drill to "shit."

South Korea and the U.S. have changed the name of the training, which kicked off last week, in apparent consideration of North Korea's complaint about what it sees as a rehearsal for invasion, but Kwon said, "Shit, though hard and dry, still stinks even if it is wrapped in a flowered cloth," according to the Korean Central News Agency's (KCNA) English-language report.

"It is a miscalculation if they think that the very change of the name of the exercise can alter its aggressive nature or that we would make it pass off quietly," he said.

Referring to the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae's emergency meeting over the North's recent missiles launch, Kwon said it looks like a "shy dog barking more wildly."

The statement also directly mentioned South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo by name, describing him as a "funny fellow" and calling South Korean authorities a "fool."

"It is only regrettable that our counterpart falls short of standard as it is now," Kwon said.

Professor Lim Eul-chul at the Institute for Far East Studies at Kyungnam University said these expressions show that the North is desperate about Seoul's role, whether it be in the field of cross-border projects or its denuclearization talks with the U.S.

"If they really didn't care about Seoul's role, they wouldn't bother slamming it or increasing the level of criticism," he said. "The fact that they are using such harsh words means that they want something desperately."

The North's sharp-worded statement, however, was not carried in the North's media outlets for domestic audiences, a move some see as intended to leave room for a possible change of its stance on inter-Korean relations going forward.

Following the latest criticism, a South Korean presidential official said the statement, after all, is an expression of the North's will to resume its denuclearization talks with Washington once the allies' exercise is over.

Regarding the tough expressions used against Seoul, the official said the North's statements usually have different characteristics compared to the South's.

The unification ministry, meanwhile, said the North's series of criticism against Seoul is "not helpful at all" to improve inter-Korean relations.

"We urge the North to actively respond to our efforts to establish peace on the Korean Peninsula and improve inter-Korean relations," ministry spokesperson Lee Sang-min said at a regular press briefing. 

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