PYONGYANG, North Korea, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- North Korea's National Defense Commission called on the South to foster a "climate for dialogue" while also threatening retribution if it fails to do so.
"Improving and developing the inter-Korean relations is the task of the times which brooks no further delay," the NDC said in a statement published Sunday by the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
If the South does not respond favorably to the North, the NDC warned "they will not be able to escape a stern punishment."
The NDC admonished the North for its "very grave" actions and advised South Korean officials to stop "wagging their tongues at will" in its criticism of the North and compared the joint U.S.-South Korean military drills to "saber-rattling."
"The South Korean authorities should ponder over their behavior more than once," the statement warned. "The army and people of the DPRK will resolutely punish the South Korean authorities in case they continue challenging the historic steps taken by it to relink the severed bonds and blood vessels of the nation and bring about a great change in mending the inter-Korean relations."
South Korea's unification ministry, responsible for inter-Korean affairs, responded to the North's message with a call for action over words.
"If North Korea truly wants to improve inter-Korean ties as it said, it can say what it wants to say by coming forward for dialogue without hesitation, not avoiding dialogue by repeatedly making unilateral claims," the ministry said in a statement.