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N.K. official blames S. Korea for 'serious debacle' in inter-Korean relations

All News 16:07 January 08, 2020

SEOUL, Jan. 8 (Yonhap) -- A North Korean official lashed out at South Korea on Wednesday for causing a "serious debacle" in inter-Korean relations, calling for an end to joint military drills with the United States as a first step to end its "paranoia."

Ri Kum-chol, vice chairman of the central committee of the Korean Social Democratic Party, a minor political party, made the remarks in an interview carried by Uriminzokkiri TV, a North Korean propaganda outlet.

The criticism came a day after President Moon Jae-in invited North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to visit South Korea and reaffirmed his commitment to implementing agreed-upon cooperative projects between the two Koreas.

"Having talked about a possibility of provocation last year, South Korea is now making a fuss by raising a possibility of provocation early this year again, drawing ridicule from people around the world," he said.

Ri said South Korea's repeated claims of provocation are a "scheme of deceit" aimed at avoiding responsibility for causing a serious debacle in inter-Korean relations.

"In order for the South to snap out of such paranoia, it should stop its invasion exercises with outside forces ... rather than repeat its claims for provocations," he added, referring to joint military drills with the U.S. which the North has denounced as a rehearsal for invasion.

North Korea had threatened to send a "Christmas gift," raising speculation that it was preparing a major provocation in protest of the stalemated denuclearization talks with the U.S.

The holiday passed without a provocation, but leader Kim last week threatened to showcase a "new strategic weapon" to the world in the near future, saying there is no reason to be bound by a self-imposed moratorium on testing long-range missiles and nuclear weapons.

North Korea has blamed South Korea for dragging its feet in pushing for cross-border projects amid global sanctions. The North has also been unresponsive to Seoul's offers for talks and cooperation.

Kim made no mention of South Korea in laying out his policy direction on major issues at a key ruling party meeting late last year, apparently reflecting chilled inter-Korean relations.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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