(ATTN: ADDS unification ministry's response)
By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, Aug. 10 (Yonhap) -- The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Tuesday slammed South Korea and the United States for going ahead with joint military exercises, denouncing the drills as the "most vivid expression" of Washington's hostile policy toward Pyongyang.
Kim Yo-jong expressed "deep regret" to South Korea for what she called "perfidious behavior" as the South kicked off a preliminary training with the U.S. in the run-up to next week's main exercise, after her earlier warning that the maneuvers will cloud inter-Korean relations.
She said the exercise shows that U.S. calls for unconditional talks and diplomatic engagement with the North are nothing but hypocrisy designed to conceal its ulterior intention of invasion, and vowed to further strengthen the country's "deterrent of absolute capacity" to cope with U.S. military threats.
"They are the most vivid expression of the U.S. hostile policy towards the DPRK, designed to stifle our state by force, and an unwelcoming act of self-destruction for which a dear price should be paid as they threaten the safety of our people and further imperil the situation on the Korean Peninsula," she said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.
DPRK is the acronym of the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"We will put more spur to further increasing the deterrent of absolute capacity to cope with the ever-growing military threats from the U.S., i.e. the national defense capabilities and powerful preemptive strike for rapidly countering any military actions against us," she said.
She said the statement was issued "upon authorization," suggesting that her brother and leader Kim Jong-un authorized its release.
"Availing myself of this opportunity, I would like to express my deep regret at the perfidious behavior of the South Korean authorities," she said.
Despite the angry statement, inter-Korean communication lines were in normal operation, officials said.
Kim denounced the U.S. for being hypocritical as it is talking about diplomacy and dialogue while at the same time carrying out such combined military exercises.
"This also proves that 'diplomatic engagement' and 'dialogue with no strings attached' touted by the present U.S. administration is hypocrisy to cover up its aggressive nature," she said.
Kim demanded U.S. forces stationed in South Korea be withdrawn.
"For peace to settle on the peninsula, it is imperative for the U.S. to withdraw its aggression troops and war hardware deployed in South Korea," she said. "As long as the U.S. forces stay in South Korea, the root cause for the periodic aggravation of the situation on the Korean peninsula will never vanish."
North Korea has long denounced Seoul and Washington's military drills as a rehearsal for an invasion of the North. The allies say that the exercises are defensive in nature.
Earlier this month, Kim issued a statement, saying that such joint military drills will cloud the future of inter-Korean relations, saying that it is entirely up to South Korea and the U.S. to choose between "despair" and "hope."
South Korea stressed that the exercise is purely defensive in nature and will be conducted in a scaled-back manner through computer simulation involving no outdoor drills.
But Kim Yo-jong rejected the argument.
"Whatever the scale and mode, the joint military exercises are of aggressive nature as they are a war rehearsal and preliminary nuclear war exercise for further rounding off the preparations for putting into practice the operational plan with the preemptive strike at us as the gist," she said.
The unification ministry in Seoul said that tensions should never be heightened on the Korean Peninsula under any circumstances, adding that it will closely monitor North Korea's future actions and brace for any possibilities.
In Washington, the U.S. Department of Defense declined to comment on the North's statement.
"We don't have a comment on the DPRK statements. In accordance with CFC Policy, we do not comment on planned or conducted training readiness," Lt. Col. Martin Meiners told Yonhap News Agency in an email. CFC refers to the Combined Forces Command between South Korea and the U.S.
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