SEOUL — North Korea’s state media on Monday criticized the United States for lifting restrictions on South Korea’s ability to build more powerful ballistic missiles in its first response to the summit between President Biden and Moon Jae-in, the leader of South Korea, earlier this month.
North Korea warned that lifting the restrictions would raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula and trigger an arms race.
During the summit meeting between Mr. Biden and Mr. Moon, the allies agreed to terminate the so-called missile guidelines that have been imposed on South Korea since 1979 and placed limits on the range and warhead weight of ballistic missiles South Korea was allowed to develop.
Before the summit, Washington had already lifted the payload limit on South Korean missiles to help the country counter the North’s growing nuclear and missile threat.
But until this month, South Korea had been banned from developing ballistic missiles with a range of more than 497 miles. With the guidelines lifted completely, South Korea can now build ballistic missiles that can fly far beyond the peninsula, although it has never announced such a plan.
The lifting of the missile cap “is a stark reminder of the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK and its shameful double-dealing,” said a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, using the acronym of the North’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The statement marked the first time North Korea’s state media reacted to the Moon-Biden summit. It was attributed to Kim Myong-chol, “an international affairs critic,” rather than a government agency, indicating that Pyongyang was still developing an official government response.
(North Korea has often used various channels, including official government statements or state-media commentaries like the one on Monday, to respond to diplomatic announcements.)
During their summit, Mr. Biden and Mr. Moon agreed to seek “diplomacy and dialogue” with the North, and to build on the 2018 Singapore agreement, which former President Donald J. Trump signed with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un.
Washington also said it would take a “calibrated” and “practical” approach toward the North, although Mr. Biden said he would not meet with Mr. Kim unless he first made a commitment to eliminate the country’s nuclear weapons.
South Korea has been building up its defense capabilities against North Korea as part of a long-term effort to regain wartime operational control of its own military. Wartime operational control of the South Korean military has been in the hands of American generals since the 1950-53 Korean War.
In its statement on Monday, North Korea did not directly comment on Washington’s North Korea policy, only saying “lots of countries” viewed the policy as “trickery.” The statement called the lifting of the missile guidelines an “apparently deliberate and hostile act.”
It also accused the United States of applying a double standard by punishing the North’s development of ballistic missiles with sanctions while giving “a green light for South Korea to develop missiles with all parts of the DPRK and neighboring countries in the striking range.”
By eliminating the missile guidelines, Washington aimed to create an “arms race on the Korean Peninsula and in its surrounding areas, and check the development of the DPRK,” the statement said.
As North Korea’s arsenal has grown, South Korea has tried to keep up by building more powerful missiles, some capable of hitting North Korean underground missile bases and leadership bunkers.
North Korea launched a new ballistic missile in March — the first such test by the country in a year and its first significant provocation against the United States under Mr. Biden. Its statement on Monday warned that lifting the missile guidelines justified its own military buildup.
“Now that the U.S. and the South Korean authorities made clear their ambition of aggression, they are left with no reasons whatsoever to fault the DPRK bolstering its capabilities for self-defense,” it said.