A unification ministry official on Friday expressed "deep regret" over North Korea's denunciation of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and urged Pyongyang to maintain the spirit of mutual respect.
Earlier in the day, a spokesperson of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, which handles inter-Korean relations, released a statement calling Moon an "impudent guy" over his address on Thursday that reaffirmed his commitment to dialogue with the North.
Taking issue with Seoul's ongoing joint military drill with Washington, the spokesperson also called Moon a "funny man" who "just reads what was written by his juniors" and denounced his speech which marked the anniversary of the country's liberation from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule as a "foolish commemorative speech" and "citation of spiritual slogans."
"We express deep regret over North Korea's slander made one day after Liberation Day, the nation's biggest celebratory day," the ministry official said, asking not to be named.
"The government has repeatedly explained that the joint military exercise between South Korea and the U.S. is not targeting the North ... but is training for the envisioned transfer of wartime operational control (from Washington to Seoul)," he said.
While calling the North's latest criticism a "rude act" that "crossed the line," the official said the government will continue efforts to resume working-level talks between the U.S. and North Korea, as well as the dialogue between the two Koreas.
"In order to improve inter-Korean relations and establish peace on the Korean Peninsula, South and North Korea should make efforts to keep what should be kept on the basis of mutual respect," the official said.
The official's response to North Korea's latest sharply worded statement appears somewhat stronger than the responses to other recent statements. Seoul had mostly refrained from reacting much to North Korea's repeated criticism in an apparent hope to keep momentum for talks alive.
In the Friday statement, North Korea said it has no intention to talk with South Korea again, adding that it would be a "senseless" hope to expect talks to resume when the allies' combined training is over.
Also on Friday, North Korea fired two short-range projectiles into the East Sea, the sixth such launch since late July.
President Moon said in his speech on Thursday that despite "a series of worrying actions" by the North, "the momentum for dialogue remains unshaken." (Yonhap News)