The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened military action against South Korea as she bashed Seoul on Saturday over declining bilateral relations and its inability to stop activists from floating anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border.
Describing South Korea as an “enemy,” Kim Yo Jong repeated an earlier threat she had made by saying Seoul will soon witness the collapse of a “useless” inter-Korean liaison office in the border town of Kaesong.
Kim, who is first vice department director of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, said she would leave it to North Korea’s military leaders to carry out the next step of retaliation against the South.
“By exercising my power authorized by the supreme leader, our party and the state, I gave an instruction to the arms of the department in charge of the affairs with enemy to decisively carry out the next action,” she said in a statement carried by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.
“If I drop a hint of our next plan the (South Korean) authorities are anxious about, the right to taking the next action against the enemy will be entrusted to the General Staff of our army,” she said. “Our army, too, will determine something for cooling down our people’s resentment and surely carry out it, I believe.”
Kim Yo Jong’s harsh rhetoric demonstrates her elevated status in North Korea’s leadership. Already seen as the most powerful woman in the country and her brother’s closest confidant, state media recently confirmed that she is now in charge of relations with South Korea.
The liaison office in Kaesong, which has been shut since January due to coronavirus concerns, was set up as a result of one of the main agreements reached in three summits between Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in 2018.
Moon’s government had lobbied hard to set up nuclear summits between Kim and President Donald Trump, who have met three times since 2018. At the same time, Moon also worked to improve inter-Korean relations.
But North Korea in recent months has suspended virtually all co-operation with the South while expressing frustration over the lack of progress in its nuclear negotiations with the Trump administration.
The North declared over the past week that it would cut off all government and military communication channels with the South and threatened to abandon key inter-Korean peace agreements reached by their leaders in 2018.
They include a military agreement in which the Koreas committed to jointly take steps to reduce conventional military threats, such as establishing border buffers and no-fly zones. They also removed some front-line guard posts and jointly surveyed a waterway near their western border in an unrealized plan to allow freer civilian navigation.
In an earlier statement last week, Kim Yo Jong said that the North would scrap the military agreement, “which is hardly of any value,” while calling North Korean defectors who send leaflets from the South “human scum” and “mongrel dogs.”