SEOUL (Reuters) – North Korea lashed out at South Korea over recent military drills, while leader Kim Jong Un sent a personal message to China’s Xi Jinping to congratulate him on that country’s success in controlling the coronavirus, state media reported on Friday.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends the completion of a fertiliser plant, in a region north of the capital, Pyongyang, in this image released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 2, 2020. KCNA/via REUTERS
A North Korean military representative said on Friday that recent South Korean military drills were a grave provocation that demanded a reaction, according to a statement carried by Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
“The recent drill served as an opportunity which awakened us once again to the obvious fact that the enemies remain enemies all the time,” the statement said.
North Korea cited a military exercise by the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) Air Combat Command on Wednesday, and said the drills violated inter-Korean agreements aimed at reducing military tensions.
“Everything is now going back to the starting point before the north-south summit meeting in 2018,” the statement said.
On Sunday, South Korea said North Korean troops fired multiple shots toward a South Korean guard post at the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which separates the two countries.
South Korean troops responded by firing warning shots, but no casualties were reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said the shots fired by North Korea were likely “accidental”.
In a separate dispatch, KCNA said Kim sent a verbal message to the Chinese president about the coronavirus, KCNA said.
“Kim Jong Un in his message extended his warm greetings to Xi Jinping and congratulated him, highly appreciating that he is seizing a chance of victory in the war against the unprecedented epidemic,” said KCNA.
Kim wished Xi good health and the KCNA report said the relations between Pyongyang and Beijing were “firmly consolidated.
Asked about Kim’s message to Xi during a daily briefing in Beijing on Friday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China and North Korea are friendly neighbours and in close communication on COVID-19 epidemic control. She said she had nothing to update with in response to a question on whether Xi will send a reply to Kim.
COVID-19 is the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus.
North Korea has said it has no cases of the coronavirus, but previously reinforced border checks and anti-epidemic measures.
Reporting by Sangmi Cha; additional reporting by Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Editing by Peter Cooney and Christian Schmollinger