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North Korea Castigates South Korea for Remarks on ‘Preemptive Strike’ Ability

The Republic of Korea Air Force's F-35As take part in an "elephant walk" exercise on March 25 at a South Korean air base. / Courtesy of Ministry of National Defense
The Republic of Korea Air Force’s F-35As take part in an “elephant walk” exercise on March 25 at a South Korean air base. / Courtesy of Ministry of National Defense

North Korea lambasted South Korea on Sunday after the South’s defense minister said Seoul is capable of launching preemptive strikes against “any target” in the North.

Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and an influential figure in Pyongyang’s politburo, said Seoul will face serious consequences if it makes any military moves against the North.

“On April 1, the South’s defense minister showed a belligerent maniacal nature by mentioning ‘preemptive strikes’ against our country,” Kim Yo-jong, the vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), was quoted as saying by the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), the North’s official mouthpiece. “The South might encounter a serious threat because of the absurd comment their defense minister recklessly made.”

She accused the South of provoking the North through extreme language and expressing its willingness to challenge the regime. “I will seriously warn the South with the power vested in me,” Kim added. “We will reconsider a lot as to our concerns with the South.” Experts assume that the “vested” power she mentioned most likely refers to the authority as endorsed by her brother.

The younger Kim also observed that the South’s defense minister’s comments essentially provoked a “nuclear-armed country,” which wouldn’t be of any benefit to his country. “Repent unless you want to see a disaster,” she said. “I wish he never repeats such blunder.”

Her comments came after South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook on April 1 underscored the South’s missile capabilities amid heightened tensions following Pyongyang’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch on March 24. He made the comments during a ceremony marking the reinforcement of the Army Missile Strategic Command in Wonju, Gangwon Province, as he ordered troops to maintain a “firm” readiness posture.

Suh said on Friday that South Korea’s military currently possesses large numbers and various types of missiles that are advanced in terms of range, accuracy and power, and have the capability to strike any target in North Korea accurately and swiftly.

Suh further stressed the South Korean military’s ability to conduct precision strikes on the “origin of any attack and its command and support facilities.” It was an apparent warning against additional provocations by Pyongyang.

Earlier in the day, Suh vowed to further develop an “advanced, multilayered missile defense system that the North does not possess,” during another event celebrating the strengthening of the Air and Missile Defense Command at Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi Province.

The last time Kim Yo-jong released a statement to the public was last September.

North Korea’s top military official, Pak Jong-chon, also warned South Korea in a separate statement that Pyongyang will destroy any target in the South in case of a preemptive strike.

“If the South Korean army engages in a dangerous military action such as a preemptive strike against the North due to a misjudgment, our army will mercilessly direct all of its military force into destroying major targets in Seoul and the South Korean army,” Pak said.

Pak, the secretary of the Central Committee of the WPK, added that the two Koreas are still technically at war, since the Korean War ended in an armistice in 1953. Any slight misjudgment or ill statement under the current military tension, he said, may trigger a “dangerous conflict and a full-blown war.”

The statements issued by the North Korean leader’s sister and Pak were carried by the Rodong Sinmun, a North Korean daily.

North Korea has conducted 12 missile tests so far this year, including the latest ICBM launch on March 24, escalating tensions not only in East Asia but also the United States, which has always kept a close eye on North Korea’s missile capability.

Following the North’s ICBM launch, South Korea has been highlighting its military readiness by showcasing its firepower and air assets. The South’s Air Force carried out an “elephant walk” drill on March 25 using dozens of F-35A stealth fighters, in which fighter jets form a fleet and move in unison until seconds before takeoff with weapons fully loaded.

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