(ATTN: ADDS unification ministry official's remarks in last 2 paras, photo)
SEOUL, Aug. 26 (Yonhap) -- A North Korean propaganda outlet on Thursday slammed South Korea and the United States over their summertime joint military drill, calling it "a dangerous playing with fire" that heightens tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Uriminzokkiri made the criticism as the allies were set to conclude their nine-day combined military exercise Thursday, which has been held in a scaled-back manner due to the coronavirus situation and peace efforts involving North Korea.
"The joint military drill is evidently aimed at intentionally worsening situations on the Korean Peninsula and a dangerous playing with fire underway as part of efforts to complete the preparations for invasion of the North," the website said.
The website denounced South Korea, in particular, for making a "thinly-veiled excuse" to justify its "invasion act of crime" in collusion with the outside forces by saying the drill is defensive in nature.
Pyongyang has long denounced such military drills as a rehearsal for invasion, though Seoul and Washington have stressed they are regular ones that are purely defensive in nature.
This year's military exercise drew a strong reaction from North Korea. Earlier, Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, slammed the drill as an "unwelcoming act of self-destruction for which a dear price should be paid."
North Korea has also not responded to the South's regular phone calls via liaison and military hotlines since Aug. 10 in protest of the military exercise.
The communication lines had been restored just two weeks earlier after the North cut them off more than a year ago in anger over anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets sent from South Korea.
A unification ministry official in Seoul urged Pyongyang to respect the spirit of the restoration agreement that the leaders of the two Koreas reached in the hope that the inter-Korean relations can be brought back on track.
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