North Korea again slammed the United States Wednesday for hindering the improvement of inter-Korean relations and escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Pyongyang's fresh invective against Washington strikes a sharp contrast to a series of reconciliatory gestures toward Seoul and comes weeks before a couple of South Korea-U.S. joint military drills set to start in late February.
"The U.S. has employed every manner to impede the improvement of the inter-Korean relations," the North's state-run Rodong Sinmun newspaper said.
Claiming that the U.S. fears "the two Koreas achieve reunification without foreign power," the North said the U.S. "has been trying to heighten tensions on the Korean Peninsula, dampen efforts for better inter-Korean ties and stoke distrust between the brothers."
Pointing to Washington dismissing its demand of canceling the military drills, the communist country said the U.S. "is bluntly forced South Korea to refuse the North's offer and to unconditionally push for the exercises."
The communist country has long argued that the annual Key Resolve command post exercise and Foal Eagle field training drill are a rehearsal for a nuclear war against it.
Dismissing the argument, however, Seoul and Washington have vowed to go ahead with them, calling them defensive in nature.
About 28,500 U.S. troops are stationed in South Korea to help defend the ally from North Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty.
The criticism from the North on Wednesday is timed with an inter-Korean Red Cross meeting underway at the truce village of Panmunjom to discuss details about much-awaited reunions of families separated during the 1950-53 Korean War.
South Korea earlier proposed to hold the humanitarian events on Feb. 17-22, while the North has not mentioned the time frame, raising speculation that it may not accept the South's suggestion citing the upcoming joint military drills. (Yonhap News)