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By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, April 25 (Yonhap) -- North Korea blasted South Korea on Thursday for conducting joint air force exercises with the United States, calling the maneuvers an act of "perfidy" endangering inter-Korean relations, even though the drills were scaled back from previous years.
In a spokesman's statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency, the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country also urged Seoul to "behave with discretion," while warning that there could be a "response from our army."
It was the first time the North had lashed out at South Korea in a statement issued in the name of the spokesman of the committee handling inter-Korean affairs since January last year, when it took a swipe at conservatives in Seoul for burning a photo of its leader Kim Jong-un and its national flag.
Last May, Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the committee, threatened to halt talks with South Korea, citing a then ongoing military exercise in an interview with state media.
"The acts of perfidy ... have greatly disappointed us, as they, far from trying to keep to preserve the valuable spark of peace, reconciliation and cooperation, have gone against the trend toward the reconciliation on the peninsula which the North and the South nurtured by their joint efforts for the past one year," the statement said.
"The South Korean authorities have to behave with discretion, mindful that their open perfidy to the DPRK at the crucial moment of whether to preserve the atmosphere of the improvement of the north-south ties may put the overall bilateral ties at risk," it added.
DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
On Monday, South Korea and the U.S. launched a two-week joint aerial military drill around the Korean Peninsula. It is a scaled-back exercise of the massive Max Thunder drill.
"While staging the large-scale combined aerial drill, the South Korean authorities claim that Max Thunder was thrown into the history and they reduced the scope of the drill by taking into consideration the situation on the Korean Peninsula," the statement said.
"They are seriously mistaken if they think they can give relief to us and stay clear of the public criticism at home and abroad with such trite nonsense," it added.
The committee claimed that such military drills will never conceal "the aggressive, offensive and confrontational nature of their hostile acts," no matter how hard South Korea tries to say that they were scaled back.
"Wind naturally brings wave. Now that the South Korean authorities get undisguised in their military provocation against the DPRK together with the U.S., there will be corresponding response to it from our army," it said. "Whatever steps we take, the South Korean authorities can never make any complaint."
In response to Pyongyang's claim that the drills are in violation of the inter-Korean military agreement, the defense ministry here said Seoul "has been fully implementing the accord, and has been prepared for this year's plans."
The Comprehensive Military Agreement, clinched during the third summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in September last year, calls for a series of trust-building and arms control measures under a broader scheme to halt all hostile acts against each other.
The unification ministry also said it remains committed to inter-Korean peace agreements.
North Korea frequently denounces South Korea's joint military drills with the U.S., saying that they are targeted at overthrowing its regime. But the latest criticism might reflect Pyongyang's displeasure with the currently stalemated inter-Korean relations, which are apparently tied down by stalled its denuclearization talks with Washington.
During his recent policy speech at the Supreme People's Assembly, North Korean leader Kim called on South Korea to stop trying to play the role of mediator or facilitator in the denuclearization talks but voice its own opinions as a "stakeholder" to "advocate interests" of the people of the two Koreas.
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