North Korea condemned the United States on Monday for damaging a thaw in inter-Korean ties, as Washington vows to employ maximum sanctions and pressure until the North gives up its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
The Rodong Sinmun, the North's main newspaper, also said that Washington is set to send strategic assets around the Korean Peninsula, despite an announcement by the South and the U.S. to delay joint military drills until after the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
The North's criticism came as South and North Korea held their first formal talks in more than two years last week, after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un extended an olive branch to Seoul.
"The U.S. is repeating its pledge not to ease maximum sanctions and pressure until the North abandons nuclear and ballistic missile programs. It is throwing cold water on an atmosphere of reconciliation," the newspaper said in a commentary.
It warned that the North Korean leadership has various options that can be executed at an appropriate time against a possible pre-emptive strike by Washington.
In his New Year's Day speech, Kim extended a peace offensive to Seoul but spoke threateningly to Washington, saying that a "nuclear button" is on his desk, which can launch a ballistic missile capable of hitting the U.S.
During last week's high-level talks, North Korea agreed to send a delegation of athletes to the Feb. 9-25 Winter Olympics in the South and to hold military talks with the South on easing border tensions.
The North criticized President Moon Jae-in on Sunday, as Moon told a press conference last week that U.S. President Donald Trump has to be credited for helping open up inter-Korean talks.
In a thinly veiled threat, North Korea also mentioned that it can roll back its decision to join the Olympics, saying, "They should know that the train and bus carrying our delegation to the Olympics are still in Pyongyang."
Commenting on the North's rebuke on Moon, Baik Tae-hyun, spokesman at Seoul's unification ministry, said, "The South Korean government thinks that it is important (for the Koreas) to seek efforts to improve inter-Korean ties under mutual understanding and respect." (Yonhap)