Kim Yong Chol, North Korea's former lead envoy for nuclear negotiations with the United States, issued a statement on Wednesday condemning U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises and warning they will inflame tensions on the Korean Peninsula. File photo by Olivier Douliery/UPI | License Photo
SEOUL, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- North Korea issued a warning in state media for the second day in a row over joint military exercises being held by South Korea and the United States, saying Seoul made a "dangerous choice" and cautioning that it will "pay dearly."
Kim Yong Chol, a high-ranking official and former lead envoy for nuclear talks with the United States, said that South Korea squandered an opportunity to improve ties by going ahead with the joint drills, which began with a preliminary session on Tuesday.
"In disregard of our advice, they opted for alliance with outsiders, not harmony with compatriots, escalation of tension, not detente, and confrontation, not improved relations," Kim said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.
The warning came one day after Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, issued a statement of her own condemning the drills, saying they would inflame tensions on the Korean Peninsula and accusing the United States of having a "hostile policy."
Pyongyang has long characterized the training exercises, traditionally held in March and August, as preparation for an invasion.
"We will make [South Korea] realize by the minute what a dangerous choice they made and what a serious security crisis they will face because of their wrong choice," Kim Yong Chol said. "They must be made to clearly understand how dearly they have to pay for answering our good faith with hostile acts after letting go the opportunity for improved inter-Korean relations."
A tense relationship between the two Koreas thawed last month with the restoration of military and liaison communications hotlines more than a year after had been severed by North Korea.
However, Pyongyang refused to answer Seoul's calls on the hotlines for the second consecutive day on Wednesday, news agency Yonhap reported.
On Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price responded to Kim Yo Jong's criticism of the joint drills, stressing that they are not intended to antagonize North Korea.
"First, let me reiterate that the joint military exercises are purely defensive in nature. We have made that point repeatedly, and it's a very important one," Price said during a press briefing.
"Second, as we have long maintained, the United States harbors no hostile intent towards the DPRK," he added.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.
U.S. and South Korean forces began a preliminary four-day crisis-management training session on Tuesday and will hold the main combined command post training exercise from Monday to Aug. 26.