|President Moon Jae-in, right, shakes hands with North Korea's Kim Jong-un in the South Korean side of the truce village of Panmunjeom, June 30, when the third U.S.-North Korea summit was held there. To Kim's left is U.S. President Donald Trump. Korea Times photo by Ryu Hyo-jin|
By Jung Da-min
President Moon Jae-in's role as a mediator between North Korea and the U.S. in denuclearization talks is being threatened, amid the North's repeated "warning" that it would exclude the South from the ongoing denuclearization negotiations.
Cheong Wa Dae dismissed such concerns Monday, answering questions on a North Korean foreign ministry statement carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) the day before. It warned the South saying if the North is to resume dialogue in the future, "this dialogue would be held strictly between the DPRK (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) and the U.S., not between the North and the South."
"It is important to get the real meaning of such statements. The message of North Korean foreign ministry spokesman's statement seemed to be that the North would resume the working-level talks (with the U.S.) after the South Korea-U.S. joint military drill ends," the presidential office spokeswoman Ko Min-jung said.
But North Korean media the same day published articles condemning the South for "not implementing" inter-Korean joint statements made last year.
"The North and South have agreed to stop all the hostile activities against each other in all spaces including the ground, air and sea that might lead to military tensions and collisions, through the military agreement for the implementation of the (April 27) Panmunjeom Declaration. ...But the South Korean authorities have betrayed all the Korean people's expectations while carrying out various kinds of military exercises with the United States targeting their dialogue counterpart and deploying the state-of-art war equipment as well as joining the cover-up military exercises," an article carried by the North's propaganda outlet Uriminzokkiri said.
The article was one of the latest where the North has condemned the South for pushing ahead with joint military exercises with the U.S. as well as deploying more of advanced weapons like F-35A stealth jets or Global Hawk spy planes.
On Sunday, Seoul and Washington kicked off a joint drill named Combined Command Post Training which would continue through Aug. 20. The two countries did not name the drill Dong Maeng 19-2, contrary to earlier expectations following the Dong Maeng 19-1 joint exercise conducted in March. It is believed that the move was to support diplomatic efforts to establish peace on the Korean Peninsula.
But the North Korean foreign ministry said changing the name of the drill did not mean its "aggressive" nature could also be altered.
Pyongyang has strengthened criticism on the joint military exercises between South Korea and the U.S. especially since last month after it reportedly turned down the South's offer of 50,000 tons of rice as a humanitarian aid through the World Food Program (WFP). The North has since been conducting a series of test-firings of its weapons including short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) and what it has described as a new "large-caliber multiple launch guided rocket system."
South Korean government has said that the North's recent weapons tests were against the "spirit" of the Sept. 19 Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA) reached last year.
The North Korean foreign ministry in the statement condemned the South's presidential office for holding an emergency meeting of security-related ministers over the North's test-firing of two SRBMs on Aug. 10, claiming the test was of their "regular measures for conventional weapons modernization."
Political analysts in Seoul said such statements from North Korean media showed North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's inclination to make a deal with U.S. President Donald Trump without help from Moon, embracing the risk of his "personal diplomacy" with the U.S. president in persuading Trump to accept Pyongyang's agenda — no pressure for regime change and a freeze on its nuclear program instead of a complete ban.
Trump also continued his letter diplomacy, upon receiving one from Kim last Friday. Trump said Kim expressed his willingness to resume negotiations with Washington, once the joint U.S.-South Korea exercises are over.