For the second time this week, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un berated South Korea for touting its supposed preemptive strike capabilities against the North, saying her country’s nuclear forces would annihilate the South’s conventional forces if provoked.
In a statement carried Tuesday by North Korea’s state media, Kim Yo Jong called South Korea Defense Minister Suh Wook’s recent comments about preemptive strikes a “fantastic daydream” and the “hysteria of a lunatic.”
She stressed that North Korea doesn’t want another war on the Korean Peninsula but warned it would retaliate with its nuclear forces if the South opts for preemptive strikes or other attacks, which would leave the South’s military “little short of total destruction and ruin.”
North Korea has repeatedly stated it would preemptively use its nuclear weapons when threatened by rivals as it accelerated its development of nuclear bombs and missiles, which Kim Jong Un sees as his strongest guarantee of survival.
In another statement directed toward Suh on Sunday, Kim Yo Jong called him a “scum-like guy” and warning that the South may face a “serious threat” because of his comments.
Her statements come amid tensions over North Korea’s accelerating weapons tests this year, including its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017 on March 24, as her brother revives nuclear brinkmanship aimed at pressuring Washington to accept the North as a nuclear power and remove crippling sanctions.
Some experts say the North may up the ante in the coming months, possibly test-flying missiles over Japan or resuming nuclear explosive tests, as it tries to get a response from the Biden administration, which is distracted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and an intensifying rivalry with China.
The renewed tensions have been a major setback for outgoing South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a dovish liberal who had staked his presidential term on his ambitions for inter-Korean rapprochement.
During a visit to the country’s strategic missile command last week, Suh said South Korea has the ability and readiness to launch precision strikes on North Korea if it detects the North intends to fire missiles at South Korea.