The powerful sister of North Korea’s leader says her country would stage more provocative displays of its military might in response to a new U.S.-South Korean agreement to intensify nuclear deterrence to counter the North’s nuclear threat, which she insists shows their “extreme” hostility toward Pyongyang.
Kim Yo Jong also lobbed personal insults toward President Joe Biden, who after a summit with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Wednesday stated that any North Korean nuclear attack on the U.S. or its allies would “result in the end of whatever regime” took such action.
Biden’s meeting with Yoon in Washington came amid heightened tensions in the Korean Peninsula as the pace of both the North Korean weapons demonstrations and the combined U.S.-South Korean military exercises have increased in a cycle of tit-for-tat.
Since the start of 2022, North Korea has test-fired around 100 missiles, including multiple demonstrations of intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to reach the U.S. mainland and a slew of short-range launches the North described as simulated nuclear strikes on South Korea.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is widely expected to up the ante in coming weeks or months as he continues to accelerate a campaign aimed at cementing the North’s status as a nuclear power and eventually negotiating U.S. economic and security concessions from a position of strength.
During their summit, Biden and Yoon announced new nuclear deterrence efforts that call for periodically docking U.S. nuclear-armed submarines in South Korea for the first time in decades and bolstering training between the two countries. They also committed to plans for bilateral presidential consultations in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack, the establishment of a nuclear consultative group and improved sharing of information on nuclear and strategic weapons operation plans.
In her comments published on state media, Kim Yo Jong said the U.S.-South Korean agreement reflected the allies’ “most hostile and aggressive will of action” against the North and will push regional peace and security into “more serious danger.”
Kim, who is one of her brother’s top foreign policy officials, said the summit further strengthened the North’s conviction to enhance its nuclear arms capabilities. She said it would be especially important for the North to perfect the “second mission of the nuclear war deterrent,” in an apparent reference to the country’s escalatory nuclear doctrine that calls for preemptive nuclear strikes over a broad range of scenarios where it may perceive its leadership as under threat.
She lashed out at Biden over his blunt warning that North Korean nuclear aggression would result in the end of its regime, calling him senile and “too miscalculating and irresponsibly brave.” However, she said the North wouldn’t simply dismiss his words as a “nonsensical remark from the person in his dotage.”
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“When we consider that this expression was personally used by the president of the U.S., our most hostile adversary, it is threatening rhetoric for which he should be prepared for far too great an after-storm,” she said.
“The more the enemies are dead set on staging nuclear war exercises, and the more nuclear assets they deploy in the vicinity of the Korean Peninsula, the stronger the exercise of our right to self-defense will become in direct proportion to them.”
She called Yoon a “fool” over his efforts to strengthen South Korea’s defense in conjunction with its alliance with the United States and bolster the South’s own conventional missile capabilities, saying he was putting his absolute trust in the U.S. despite getting only “nominal” promises in return.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, described her comments as “absurd” and insisted that they convey the North’s “nervousness and frustration” over the allies’ efforts to strengthen nuclear deterrence.