North Korea is “fully ready for both dialogue and war” and prepared to respond to any U.S. “provocation by prompt counterstrike,” state-run media said Monday as the Winter Olympics continued in South Korea.
In a pair of blistering commentaries, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency ripped into the United States over what it said were moves to stifle the emerging detente between the two Koreas, including talk of military action against the reclusive country and the resumption of annual military exercises with the South that were postponed until the Winter Games wrapped up.
Taking aim at the joint military exercises, known as Foal Eagle and Key Resolve, one commentary slammed Marc Knapper, the current charge d’affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, for his statement earlier this month that the drills would be conducted in April.
“The Trump group’s racket for resuming the war exercises is a wild act of ruthlessly trampling even a small sprout of peace that has been now seen on the Korean Peninsula,” the commentary said.
“This proves that the U.S. war shadow expected to loom after the Olympics has begun to be activated in its practical phase,” it added.
Pyongyang, which has been slapped with a series of tough U.N. and unilateral sanctions, has seen its ties with Seoul thaw amid a charm offensive that saw North Korean leader Kim Jong Un dispatch his younger sister to the games to deliver an offer to host a summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Moon said Saturday that it was too early to think about a meeting despite the Olympic-driven rapprochement with its nuclear-armed neighbor, but added that “there are high hopes for a North-South summit.”
Moon has had to walk a fine line, balancing both his desire for improved North-South ties and demands from the U.S. — Seoul’s top ally — that it maintain the White House’s policy of “maximum pressure.”
It remains unclear if Moon might ask the U.S. for a further delay to the military exercises, which North Korea views as a rehearsal for invasion, and the resumption of the drills in April could trigger a response from Pyongyang.
The North has conducted a spate of test launches over the last year, including of a longer-range missile experts believe is capable of striking most of the U.S. It also unleashed its most powerful nuclear blast to date in September, in what it claimed was a test of a thermonuclear weapon.
On Monday, it vowed to “resolutely counter any act of harassing peace and security on the Korean Peninsula,” adding that this was “by no means any rhetorical threat.”
However valuable the improvement in North-South ties and the peaceful environment may be, it said, “it is the principled stand and unshakable will of the army and people of the DPRK to counter provocation by prompt counterstrike.”
In a separate KCNA commentary, the North assailed the U.S. and President Donald Trump for hinting at the possibility of military action to rein in Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.
“The DPRK is fully ready for both dialogue and war,” the commentary said, using the acronym for the North’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“The army and people of the DPRK are full of strength and will to teach the U.S. with resolute and merciless punishment that the latter’s reckless military option will never offer a way to survive.”