By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL, July 7 (Yonhap) -- North Korea appears to have begun a "tug of war" with the United States over its policy on Pyongyang while focusing on strengthening internal unity and economic development, the defense ministry said Wednesday.
The assessment was made during a meeting of top military commanders, including Defense Minister Suh Wook and Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) Chairman Gen. Won In-choul, which was meant to check the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and discuss the policy direction for the second half of the year.
"North Korea is focusing on its internal affairs prioritizing internal unity and economic development, and began 'a tug of war' with the U.S. in earnest over the Joe Biden administration's policy toward it," the ministry said in a release.
In April, the Biden administration completed its monthslong review of policy on the North and said it would pursue a "calibrated, practical" approach toward the goal of the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Washington then expressed its willingness to meet with the North "anywhere, anytime without preconditions," but Pyongyang flatly rejected such a dialogue offer last month.
Watchers say the communist country has been grappling with economic difficulties hit by global sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic.
The defense ministry also said that North Korea has continued work to advance and develop strategic and tactical weapons, while maintaining a posture "to provoke at any time."
The North has showcased new types of short-range ballistic missiles and multiple rocket launchers over the past several years amid stalled denuclearization talks with the U.S. and chilled inter-Korean relations.
This year, North Korea conducted a major weapons test once in March, when it test-fired two short-range ballistic missiles, believed to be an upgraded version of its KN-23 missile modeled after Russia's Iskander. The North's state media said they were new tactical guided missiles.
The JCS said no unusual military movements have been detected in North Korea recently, though it is closely watching them, particularly as the North is supposed to begin summertime military drills in July.
In order to deter such threats, the Seoul military vowed to further beef up defense capabilities by deploying such weapons as early warning radars against ballistic missiles and medium-range surface-to-air missiles as planned, and beef up security along the inter-Korean border.
"We will further strengthen the Korea-U.S. combined posture and will carry out joint exercises and drills through diverse methods," it said.
The commanders also decided to seek diverse discussion channels with neighboring countries to prevent accidental clashes and to ease tensions, as there has been a marked growth in military activities by countries in the region amid an intensifying Sino-U.S. rivalry, according to the ministry.
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