TOKYO — North Korea’s main newspaper accused the United States on Sunday of staging military drills to prepare an invasion while at the same time pursuing dialogue with “a smile on its face.”
Rodong Sinmun, the official mouthpiece of the Workers’ Party of Korea, cited alleged U.S. troop movements in the region, which it called “extremely provocative and dangerous” and said they threatened to derail the dialogue between the United States and North Korea.
The U.S. military called the accusation “far fetched.”
The opinion piece came two days after President Trump canceled a planned trip to North Korea by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, citing a lack of progress in getting North Korea to surrender its nuclear weapons.
The Rodong Sinmun piece did not mention Trump by name or the decision to cancel Pompeo’s trip. Media outlets controlled by the Pyongyang regime have been careful not to criticize Trump directly since his June 12 meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, reserving occasional ire for Pompeo and other members of the administration. But the timing of the piece may be more than coincidence.
Rodong Sinmun cited a South Korean radio broadcast claiming that U.S. “special units” had recently flown to the Philippines, arguing this was a drill simulating “infiltration into Pyongyang.” It also claimed that the USS Michigan nuclear submarine had transported “Green Berets, Delta Force and other special units” from Okinawa, Japan, to the Jinhae naval base in South Korea in late July or early August.
Col. John Hutcheson, the director of public affairs for U.S. Forces Japan, said he wasn’t sure what drills the piece was referring to.
“U.S. aircraft routinely fly from Japan to the Philippines and other nations around the region for a variety of training and operational reasons, so the notion that any single flight is related to North Korea is a bit far fetched,” he wrote in an email.
Cmdr. Clay Doss, public affairs officer at the U.S. Seventh Fleet, said the North Korean report, including the mention of the USS Michigan, is “completely false.”
But Rodong Sinmun argued that the acts “prove that the U.S. is hatching a criminal plot to unleash a war against the DPRK” in case Washington fails to achieve denuclearization.
That would be a crime that deserves “merciless divine punishment,” it said.
“We cannot but take a serious note of the double-dealing attitudes of the U.S. as it is busy staging secret drills involving man-killing special units while having a dialogue with a smile on its face,” the opinion piece continued.
“The U.S. would be sadly mistaken if it thinks that it can browbeat someone through trite ‘gunboat diplomacy’ which it used to employ as an almighty weapon in the past and attain its sinister intention.”
Trump announced the suspension of the U.S. military’s annual exercises with South Korea when he met Kim, calling those exercises “provocative.”
In his Friday tweets, Trump put some of the blame on China for the lack of progress with North Korea, tweeting that because of his “tougher Trading stance,” the Chinese were not “helping with the process of denuclearization as they once were.”
Beijing said those remarks showed a “total disregard of the facts.”
In a statement released Saturday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China is making “unremitting efforts” to abide by the U.N. Security Council’s resolutions and urged all parties to “stick to the direction of seeking a political settlement.”
Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in convened a meeting of his National Security Council on Sunday to discuss the cancellation of Pompeo’s trip.
A spokesman said Moon’s planned trip to Pyongyang in September — his third summit with Kim this year — now took on added significance.
“The circumstances show that President Moon has a bigger role as the facilitator and a mediator unblocking the impasse between North Korea and the U.S. and widening the scope of mutual understanding,” South Korean presidential Blue House spokesman Kim Eui-keum told reporters Sunday.
Min Joo Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.