North Korean official Hwang Pyong So was one of two top representatives who met with Seoul's envoys last week for marathon talks that led to a landmark deal that defused tensions at the border. The North's expression of "regret" was never meant to be read as an "apology," Pyongysang said Wednesday. File Photo by Yonhap
SEOUL, Sept. 2 (UPI) -- North Korea said it never claimed responsibility for the land mine explosions in the demilitarized zone that injured two South Korean soldiers and disparaged the South for misreading its expression of "regret."
The statement delivered through Pyongyang's state-controlled media outlet KCNA on Wednesday criticized Seoul for confusing its expression of sympathy for the incident with an outright apology or an admission of wrongdoing, The New York Times reported.
"They are so ignorant of the Korean language they don't even know the meanings and definitions of Korean words," the North's National Defense Commission said.
Seoul's Unification Ministry spokesman said the North's announcement was not an impediment to ongoing progress between the two sides – and that plans are underway for family reunions around Sept. 27, a major national holiday.
"We should not be so put down by this or that word, at least that is what I think," said Jeong Joon-hee, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap. "Now is not the time become pedantic, but rather to make efforts to implement the agreements."
North Korea also warned inter-Korea relations were "bound to return to confrontation" if the South continued to read Pyongyang's previous statement as an apology.
In addition to making it clear the North never apologized, Pyongyang has said the deal reached last week was possible because of the state's "military muscle," including its nuclear weapons.
The timing of North Korea's announcement coincides with South Korean President Park Geun-hye's meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing. South Korean news network YTN reported that Pyongyang may be responding to a recent report regarding OPLAN 5015 – a possible review to the current military strategy that was signed into agreement by Seoul and Washington – and statements from South Korea's military that indirectly warned the North against future provocations.