N. Korea cries foul over ROK-US joint military drills
By Kim Young-jin
North Korea lashed out at the United States Monday for its joint military maneuvers with South Korea, saying the allies crossed the line by firing at a North Korean flag.
A foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement that Pyongyang would boost its “nuclear deterrent” after the allies held joint drills in Pocheon, Gyeonggi Province, and naval drills in the West Sea that coincided with the 62nd anniversary of the outbreak of the 1950-53 Korean War that fell Monday.
Photographs taken during the Pocheon drills show a North Korean flag draped on a hillside with smoke pluming around it.
"It is an extremely grave military action and politically-motivated provocation to fire live bullets and shells at the flag of a sovereign state without a declaration of war," a foreign ministry spokesman said in a statement carried by state media.
Military tensions have persisted since the North’s deadly 2010 provocations. In recent years, units on both sides have at some point, used images of leaders from whichever nation they oppose as target practice.
While the North often makes threatening remarks to Seoul and Washington, these are often seen as propaganda aimed at building solidarity among its military and population. However, some warn that Pyongyang will remain unpredictable until new leader Kim Jong-un, who took power following the death of his father Kim Jong-il in December, finds his feet.
The North has been touting its nuclear capabilities as a legacy of its late ruler Kim Jong-il, casting doubt over the prospects of the stalled denuclearization negotiations. It has revealed a uranium enrichment facility and satellite imagery shows work progressing on a light water reactor at its main Yongbyon plant.
Ratcheting up its rhetoric, Pyongyang has threatened to target Cheong Wa Dae and conservative news outlets in recent months, in what analysts say is a bid to divide public opinion here ahead of presidential elections later this year.
On Sunday, President Lee said the South would not tolerate any further provocation from the North, reflecting a tougher military posture following the sinking of the warship Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island two years ago that killed a total of 50 South Koreans.
The live-fire drills, comprising 2,000 troops, were the largest ever by the allies. The naval exercises included 10 South Korean warships and the nuclear-powered USS George Washington aircraft carrier as well as hundreds of aircraft.
Tensions linger following Pyongyang’s failed rocket launch in April, which was deemed to be a test of ballistic missile technology and scuttled efforts at engagement. The sides remain in a technical state of war because the fratricidal war ended in an armistice not a peace treaty.