The sister of North Korean leader Kim Yo Jong, criticized the ongoing military drills in South Korea and warned the new U.S. administration that the smell of cordite pounding the border would not help peace, reported of state news on Tuesday.
Kim’s statement was the first public message in the North in Washington since President Joe Biden took office in January. It was delivered a day before U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin would arrive in Seoul for their first talks with South Korean counterparts.
“We take this opportunity to warn the new U.S. administration that it is trying to give the smell of powder to our land,” Kim said in a statement carried by the state news agency KCNA. “If it wants to sleep in peace for the next four years, it’s better to prevent it from causing stink in its first step.”
For all the imagery of Kim’s words, the joint military springtime drill that began last week was limited to computer simulations because of the risk of the coronavirus as well as the ongoing effort to engage the North.
But his message is clear.
“The drills of war and hatred cannot go into dialogue and cooperation,” Kim Yo Jong said.
When asked about Kim Yo Jong’s statement, Blinken said at a briefing in Tokyo that he knew his comments, but he was more interested in hearing what America’s allies and partners thought about North Korea.
Blinken and Austin travel to Asia this week for foreign policy and security talks with allies in Japan and South Korea, among other stops.
It is expected that the new US administration will wrap up a review of North Korea’s policy in the coming weeks. And Blinken said Washington is considering whether further pressure on North Korea could be effective.
The timing of Kim’s comments seems designed to ensure that North Korea is at the top of Blinken and Austin’s agenda when it comes to Seoul, said Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korean expert at King’s College London.
“So far, the discussion has focused on The Quad, dealing with China and reviewing North Korean policy,” he said. “Now Kim’s statement will be the center of discussions.”
So far North Korea has rejected entreaties from the United States to talk, the White House said on Monday, as a chill in relations that began under former President Donald Trump reached Biden’s presidency.
Leader Kim Jong Un had three intense summit meetings with Trump and exchanged a series of letters, but the nuclear weapons state ended the talks and said it would not communicate remotely unless if the United States overturns the angry policies.
‘SHRUNKEN WAR GAMES’
Kim Yo Jong ridiculed South Korea for “using the recession of war games, now that they find themselves in the throes of a political, economic and epidemic crisis.”
Boo Seung-chan, a spokesman for South Korea’s Ministry of Defense, said the drills were regular and defensive in nature.
“The ministry’s position is that North Korea must show flexibility, such as responding to dialogue, in order to build a lasting and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula,” he said in a briefing.
The inter-Korean relations that improved in 2018 and sought by South Korea “will not come easily again” and North Korea is watching to see if there are further provocations, Kim said.
He said North Korea would consider pulling out of a military agreement between Korea aimed at reducing tension along their shared border, and would examine whether to dissolve many organizations seeking to cooperate with the South.
Kim’s statement, as colorful as it is, is generally in line with previous statements in North Korea expressing frustration at the variation between words and actions, said Jenny Town, director of 38 North, a website-based in the US tracking North Korea.
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha and Josh Smith; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington; Editing by Chris Reese, Richard Pullin and Tom Hogue)
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