Pyongyang: North Korea on Saturday dismissed the replacement of the hardliner South Korean minister handling cross-border affairs as a sham, and accused Seoul of sticking to its "confrontation" policy.
Hyun In-Taek was replaced on Tuesday as unification minister by Yu Woo-Ik, but Hyun will become a special presidential adviser for unification affairs.
Hyun was the key architect of President Lee Myung-Bak`s North Korea policy, which links major economic aid to progress on denuclearisation a stance, which enrages Pyongyang.
The North`s official news agency, in its first response to the change, branded Hyun the "chief criminal" behind, what it called Lee`s policy for confrontation and said, he had driven inter-Korean relations to catastrophe.
Hyun`s new appointment "is little short of invariably sticking to the policy for confrontation with the DPRK (North Korea)", it said, without commenting on Yu.
The agency said, the Seoul government had "orchestrated another burlesque mocking at the mindset of the people desirous of independence, peace and reunification".
Ties have been frosty since Lee took over in 2008 from a left-leaning administration, which practised a "sunshine" policy of aid and engagement.
They turned icy, when Seoul accused Pyongyang of torpedoing a warship in March 2010 with the loss of 46 South Korean lives.
The North denied involvement in the sinking but shelled a South Korean border island last November, killing four people including two civilians.
The South has demanded its neighbour accept blame for both deadly incidents before any substantial dialogue. But it shelved that condition to allow a rare meeting of nuclear envoys from the two sides to take place in Bali in July.
That meeting was followed by talks in New York between a senior North Korean official and his US counterparts, aimed at restarting stalled six-nation negotiations on the North`s nuclear disarmament.
Some Seoul analysts saw Hyun`s replacement as reflecting Lee`s desire to improve relations with the North. Yu said on Wednesday he would try to be flexible in dealing with the communist country.