North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, has criticised ongoing military drills in South Korea and warned the new US administration against “causing a stink” if it wants peace, state news reported.
The statement came a day before America’s top diplomat and defence chief were due to arrive in Seoul for their first talks with South Korean counterparts.
“We take this opportunity to warn the new US administration trying hard to give off powder smell in our land,” Ms Kim said in a statement carried by state news agency KCNA.
“If it wants to sleep in peace for coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin are travelling in Asia this week for foreign policy and security talks with allies in Japan and South Korea, among other stops.
The timing of Ms Kim’s comments seems designed to ensure that North Korea will be at the top of Mr Blinken and Mr Austin’s agenda when they land in Seoul, according to Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a Korea expert at King’s College London.
“Until now, the discussion was focusing on the Quad, dealing with China and the North Korea policy review,” he said.
“Now Kim’s statement will be central to discussions.”
Leader Kim Jong Un had three high-profile summit meetings with former president Donald Trump and exchanged a series of letters, but North Korea later ended talks and said it would not engage further unless the US dropped its hostile policies.
There was no immediate response from the White House and State Department, or South Korea’s government.
US President Joe Biden’s team has been conducting a review of North Korea policy, which it expects to complete in the coming weeks.
US, South Korean militaries carrying out virtual war games
South Korean and American troops began a joint springtime military drill last week.
But the exercise was limited to computer simulations because of the coronavirus risk, as well as the ongoing efforts to engage with the North.
“War drills and hostility can never go with dialogue and cooperation,” said Ms Kim, who has become a vocal critic of Seoul in state media dispatches.
She mocked South Korea for “resorting to shrunken war games, now that they find themselves in the quagmire of political, economic and epidemic crisis.”
The inter-Korean engagement that had improved in 2018 and is sought by South Korea “won’t come easily again” and North Korea would be watching for any further provocations, she said.
She said North Korea would consider pulling out of an inter-Korean military agreement aimed at reducing tensions along their shared border, and would review whether to dissolve several organisations aimed at cooperation with the South.
Ms Kim’s statement, while phrased in colourful language, was generally consistent with past North Korean statements expressing frustrations at disparities between words and actions, said Jenny Town, the director of 38 North, a US-based website that tracks North Korea.
“Despite the agreements in place, positive actions, especially on the inter-Korean agenda, have been too few while actions that reinforce the ‘old’ adversarial relationship persist,” she said.