For the second time this week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister chastised South Korea for boasting about its alleged pre-emptive strike capabilities against the North.
Kim Yo Jong stated that if provoked, her country’s nuclear forces will demolish the South’s conventional forces.
She labeled South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook’s recent comments about pre-emptive strikes a “fantastic daydream” and “lunatic frenzy” in a statement released by North Korea’s state media.
She emphasized that North Korea does not seek another war on the Korean Peninsula, but warned that if the South chooses pre-emptive strikes or other attacks, the South’s military would be left “a little short of total destruction and ruin.”
North Korea has often stated that it will use nuclear weapons first if it is threatened by competitors, as it has accelerated the development of nuclear bombs and missiles, which Kim Jong Un sees as his best guarantee of survival.
Kim Yo Jong labeled Suh a “scum-like guy” in his statement on Sunday, saying that the South may face a “serious threat” as a result of his remarks.
Her remarks come amid rising tensions over North Korea’s escalating weapons tests this year, including its first intercontinental ballistic missile test since 2017 on March 24, as her brother resurrects nuclear brinkmanship in an attempt to persuade the US to recognize the North as a nuclear power and lift crippling sanctions.
Some experts believe the North may escalate matters in the coming months, possibly testing missiles over Japan or resuming nuclear bomb tests, in order to elicit a response from the Biden administration, which is preoccupied by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and an escalating competition with China.
The heightened tensions have been a big blow for outgoing South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a dovish liberal who had based his presidential term on his dreams for inter-Korean peace.
Suh stated last week during a visit to the country’s strategic missile command that South Korea has the capability and readiness to make precision attacks on North Korea if it detects the North intends to fire missiles at South Korea.
Seoul has always maintained a pre-emptive attack doctrine in response to North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats, but it was unusual for a Moon government official to address it openly.
“In case (South Korea) opts for military confrontation with us, our nuclear combat force will have to inevitably carry out its duty … a dreadful attack will be launched and the (South Korean) army will have to face a miserable fate little short of total destruction and ruin,” Kim said in her latest statement.
The South Korean government did not reply quickly to her remarks. Following Kim’s earlier comments on Sunday, Seoul made a low-key reaction, urging Pyongyang to desist from increasing tensions further and return to negotiations.
Moon met Kim Jong Un three times in 2018 and worked hard to facilitate Kim’s first meeting with then-US President Donald Trump in June of that year.
Diplomacy, however, came to a halt with the second Kim-Trump meeting in 2019, when the Americans rejected North Korea’s requests for massive sanctions relief in exchange for a limited surrender of its nuclear weapons.
Despite limited finances and pandemic-related obstacles, Kim has pledged to strengthen his nuclear capabilities and accelerate weapons development.
North Korea has also terminated all inter-Korean cooperation, citing its displeasure with US-South Korean military exercises and Seoul’s inability to win concessions from Washington on its behalf.
Before its resumption of long-range testing last month, the North had spent the much of the past three years expanding its arsenal of nuclear-capable short-range missiles threatening South Korea.
Prior to resuming long-range testing last month, the North had spent much of the previous three years building up its arsenal of nuclear-armed short-range missiles capable of menacing South Korea.
According to experts, those missiles, which may be outfitted with “tactical” battlefield nuclear bombs, signal the North’s threat to employ smaller nuclear weaponry even during conventional conflict to overwhelm South Korea’s and the US’s larger conventional forces. To discourage North Korean invasion, the US stationed approximately 28,500 soldiers in the South.
Moon’s term expires in May, when he will be succeeded by conservative Yoon Suk Yeol, who may adopt a tougher stance towards Pyongyang.
Sung Kim, Biden’s special envoy for North Korea, will visit his Chinese counterpart in Washington, according to US State Department spokesperson Ned Price. China, Pyongyang’s main ally and economic lifeline, has frequently urged the UN Security Council to ease sanctions against the North, citing the economic toll on civilians.