SEOUL • North Korea has accused the South of misrepresenting their agreement to defuse tensions, and warned that the hard-won deal was being undermined by claims that Pyongyang had made an apology for border landmine blasts.
The explosions maimed two South Korean soldiers on patrol last month, and triggered a crisis that brought the rivals to the brink of armed conflict.
A deal to de-escalate tensions was reached last week, following marathon talks in the border truce village of Panmunjom, that committed them to starting an official dialogue.
But a spokesman from Pyongyang's National Defence Commission (NDC) said the South was misrepresenting the agreement and claiming North Korea apologised for the explosions.
According to the six-point deal, the North had "expressed regret" over the incident, but the NDC spokesman said Pyongyang was merely offering condolences to the victims.
"To put it simply, it was no more than saying 'I'm sorry about your suffering'," he was quoted as saying by the official KCNA news agency.
The spokesman also attacked the South for conducting a massive joint live-fire drill with the United States after the agreement.
"Should the South leave the current situation as it is, the precious sprout for national reconciliation would be nipped by severe frost, and the North-South relations would be pushed back to confrontation," he said.
South Korea fired back at the North's criticism, saying that the deal was predicated on Pyongyang's apology.
"This is not a time for back-and-forth over the wording. The two sides should implement the agreement in full faith and move forward," Mr Jeong Joon-Hee, a spokesman for the unification ministry, which oversees cross-border relations, told journalists.
The two rivals came close to conflict last month after South Korea, in retaliation over the blasts, switched on giant speakers blasting propaganda messages into North Korea. The North denied any role in the mine blasts, and issued an ultimatum for the South to halt its "psychological warfare" or face attack.
Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter said on Tuesday that North Korea would have no chance of defeating its southern neighbour and its allies in a conflict.
"We need to make sure that North Koreans always understand that any provocation with them will be dealt with, and they stand no chance of defeating us and our allies in South Korea," Mr Carter told troops.
The US military has played a key role on the Korean Peninsula since the end of the 1950 to 1953 war.
Close to 30,000 US troops are permanently stationed in South Korea.