North Korea on Monday accused U.S. and South Korean authorities of fabricating the results of a probe that concluded Pyongyang sent small surveillance drones to spy on key South Korean installations in March while turning up the heat on a rhetorical battle between the rival Koreas.
A spokesman for the North's military attacked the United States for what it said was a blindly backed confrontational conspiracy devised by the government of South Korean President Park Geun-hye, whom it called a "political prostitute."
"If Washington pays heed only to what its stooges trumpet, it is bound to be accused of being a senile grandfather trying to stop a child from crying," an unnamed spokesman said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
South Korean and U.S. officials jointly examined three drones that were recovered in three different locations near the Korean border over a two-week period starting in late March. The second was discovered soon after a three-hour artillery barrage between North and South Korea in waters near a disputed maritime border.
However, North Korea said in the statement the joint investigation into the origin of the drones was a "charade," designed to divert public criticism of the South Korean government's handling of the Sewol ferry tragedy, which left at least 275 dead. Park's government has faced continued criticism for its handling of the disaster from the families of the ferry victims, many of whom believe a swifter initial response could have saved many more lives.
In a rare direct attack on the North Korean regime, South Korean Ministry of Defense spokesman Kim Min-seok said the North's statement was "deeply regrettable" and that Pyongyang regularly lies so deserves to be discredited.
"North Korea isn't a real country is it? It doesn't have human rights or freedom. It exists solely to prop up a single person," Kim said at a briefing in Seoul. "It is an unreal country that constantly lies and uses historically backward-looking rhetoric."
"That's why it should cease to exist," Kim said, using uncharacteristically aggressive language. North and South Korea are technically still at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.
Pyongyang has been ramping up its rhetoric against Seoul and Washington since U.S. President Barack Obama and Park met in Seoul last month. During that visit, Obama said that it may be time to consider further sanctions against North Korea and that the U.S. will not hesitate to use its military might to defend its allies.
In April, North Korea described Obama as Park's "pimp" and in an article this month, called the U.S. president a "wicked black monkey."
Meanwhile, North Korea renewed a threat on Saturday to conduct a nuclear test amid heightened concern that it may set off an atomic device for the fourth time as it tries to build a nuclear arsenal.
North Korea's official Rodong Sinmun newspaper said the country was justified in using all available means at its disposal to counter aggressive challenges by the U.S. and South Korea.