North Korea assumes increasingly aggressive stance toward South Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (left) and South Korean President Moon Jae In held a joint conference following the April inter-Korean summit. Image: Korea Summit Press Pool

North Korea has continued to demand a speedy implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration while raising its criticism of the South Korean government.

Uriminzokkiri, a North Korean propaganda outlet, recently criticized the US government for ignoring the issue of proclaiming an end to the Korean War in an article entitled, “The Issue of Proclaiming an End to the Korean War Must Not be Ignored” on July 23. “The South Korean government, which has a duty to implement the specifics of the Panmunjom Declaration, must not ignore the issue of proclaiming an end to the Korean War,” the article says.

The article further declares that “[t]he issue of proclaiming an end to the Korean War was one of the important agreements reached in the historic Panmunjom Declaration […] There is no reason to further delay the historic task of ending the abnormal current state of war on the Korean Peninsula and move to establishing a strong system of peace.”

Another propaganda outlet, “Maeari,” states in an article entitled, “South Korean Authorities Must Do All They Can to Proclaim an End to the Korean War,” that the “US only talks about its one-sided demands for denuclearization in contradiction to the spirit of the US-DPRK (abbreviation of North Korea’s formal name) joint agreement and shows no signs of sincerity towards the issue of proclaiming an end to the Korean War. This is because the South Korean authorities have not put forth any strong efforts to resolve the problem.”

The article continues, “Peace on the Korean Peninsula will never come if the South Korean authorities ignore or pretend to work towards ending the Korean War just because the US has failed to show any sincerity with the issue. This will lead to the significance of the historic Panmunjom Summit disappearing.”

North Korea is calling for an end to the Korean War as the 65th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice Agreement approaches on July 27 and is expressing its discontent toward South Korea for what it perceives to be a failure to move toward further discussions on the issue.

The declaration of the end of the Korean War is connected with North Korea’s measures toward denuclearization. The US is delaying any declaration to the end of the war until further measures are taken by the North Koreans to denuclearize. As the US-DPRK negotiations are more or less at a standstill, North Korea has moved to strongly demand South Korea take steps to resolve the issue.

North Korea has previously criticized public statements made by President Moon Jae-in and has moved to place pressure on South Korea by bringing up the issue of a previous mass defection of female restaurant workers.

The Rodong Sinmun ran an article entitled, “Truth of Abduction Cannot Be Hidden” on July 21 that called the mass defection of female restaurant workers in China a criminal act by the South Korea government and demanded an investigation and punishment of those involved.

The article also notes that, “If the repatriation of our women [sic] citizens is not settled at an early date, it may throw obstacles not only in the way of the reunion of separated families and relatives between the north and the south now high on agenda but also in the way of the north-south relations,” hinting that the issue could be linked to the planned upcoming separated family reunions.

An editorial in the newspaper on July 20 criticized President Moon’s statement that “If the two leaders of the US and the DPRK do not keep their promise, they will receive a strong rebuke from the international community” as “rude lies” and “useless talk.”

The article does not mention President Moon by name, but nonetheless criticizes his statement directly, marking the first time North Korea has directly criticized the South Korean leader since the inter-Korean summit.

North Korea’s growing pressure on South Korea can be understood in light of its displeasure with the US and ROK’s steadfast position on North Korea sanctions. North Korea is focused on economic development, which requires the speedy lifting of sanctions. However, the US and South Korea have stated they will continue to keep sanctions in place until the North’s nuclear issue is resolved.

The Rodong Sinmun editorial states that the  South Korean authorities “say they will implement the Panmunjom Declaration’s agreements, but all they do is look to the US for directions and make no real moves toward progress […] They promise to ‘cooperate with North Korea within the framework of sanctions as much as possible’ but just sit on their hands.”

The South Korean government has responded to North Korea’s aggressive statements, appearing intent on avoiding any unnecessary battle of the wills with North Korea as the two countries continue dialogue with the following statement: “There is nothing to talk about. The two Koreas are working toward the implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration under the spirit of constructing mutual trust.”

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