S. Korea calls North’s mock attack on Blue House ‘childish’
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean commandos reportedly staged a weekend military drill targeting a replica of the South’s presidential palace, prompting a rebuke from South Korean officials Monday.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un watched the exercise involving the special operation battalion of the Korean People’s Army Unit 525, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.
On Sunday, the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper published more than two dozen photos of soldiers firing as the mock Cheong Wa Dae, known as the Blue House, was engulfed in flames and smoke.
No date or location was given, but the South Korean military said earlier this year that the North had built a fake Blue House at a firing range on the outskirts of the capital, Pyongyang. The publication of the news suggested the drill was held the day before.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry denounced the exercise, which it called a “childish” effort to exploit the political crisis that has led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.
“North Korea’s move seems to be aimed at showing that the regime remains firm in contrast to our internal affairs,” ministry spokesman Jeong Joon-hee told reporters Monday, according to a transcript of the briefing. “We strongly condemn Kim Jong Un’s consecutive visits to troops since November and actions to raise tensions like this.”
South Korea’s interim leader and other officials have called for heightened vigilance against North Korea, warning it could try to take advantage of any political vacuum and uncertainty.
Tensions have risen sharply on the divided peninsula this year as the North has conducted two nuclear tests and several missile launches since January despite international condemnation and punishing U.N. Security Council sanctions.
On Monday, South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said in a par-liamentary report that it has asked the U.S. to send more surveillance and reconnaissance assets to counter the growing threat from North Korea, the Yonhap news agency reported.
Stars and Stripes staffer Yoo Kyong Chang contributed to this report.