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(LEAD) N.K.'s criticism of Seoul over joint drill, weapons purchase nothing new: official

North Korea 17:05 August 27, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS experts' analysis in last 4 para, byline)
By Choi Soo-hyang

SEOUL, Aug. 27 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's recent stepped-up criticism of South Korea over joint military exercises with the United States is not anything out of the ordinary, a unification ministry official said Tuesday.

The North has been ramping up pressure on Seoul, taking issue with the South Korea-U.S. joint military drill that wrapped up last week and the introduction of new weapons, such as F-35A stealth fighters, from Washington.

"We don't see it as an occurrence of a new situation between the South and the North. We think it can be fully resolved through dialogue," the official said, asking not to be named.

Referring to a military tension reduction deal the two sides signed last year, the official said security issues can be discussed and agreed upon at their joint military committee.

"We can hold a meeting of the joint military committee and discuss in a way that could reduce concerns each side has regarding security issues," the official said.

On Saturday, the North fired two projectiles, presumed to be short-range ballistic missiles, off its east coast, marking the seventh such event since late July.

Guiding the launch, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said there is a need to push for "an indomitable offensive campaign" to frustrate "the ever-mounting military threats and pressure offensive of the hostile forces," according to the North's Korean Central News Agency.

Analysts say the North's recent pressure on Seoul seems aimed at getting joint exercises between the South and the U.S. suspended. The North has long denounced such drills as preparations to invade the country.

"There is a high possibility that North Korea would raise the suspension of the South Korea-U.S. military exercise as a key agenda item when the North Korea-U.S. working-level negotiations for denuclearization begin," researchers Ahn Zeno and Lee Soo-seok at the state-run Institute for National Security Strategy said in a joint report.

"They don't consider the modification of the size, period or the method of the training as important. They just want it suspended," the report said.

Ahn and Lee also said the resumption of the nuclear talks will not directly lead to improvement in inter-Korean relations, noting that there needs to be a "motivation" or a "momentum" to get their relations back on track.

(LEAD) N.K.'s criticism of Seoul over joint drill, weapons purchase nothing new: official - 1


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