SEOUL, South Korea — The powerful sister of North Korea’s leader says her country would stage more provocative displays of its military might in response to a new U.S.-South Korean agreement to intensify nuclear deterrence to counter the North’s nuclear threat, which she insists shows their “extreme” hostility toward Pyongyang.
Kim Yo-jong also lobbed personal insults toward U.S. President Joe Biden, who after a summit with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Wednesday stated that any North Korean nuclear attack on the U.S. or its allies would “result in the end of whatever regime” took such action.
Biden’s meeting with Yoon in Washington came amid heightened tensions in the Korean Peninsula as the pace of both the North Korean weapons demonstrations and the combined U.S.-South Korean military exercises have increased in a cycle of tit-for-tat.
Since the start of 2022, North Korea has test-fired around 100 missiles, including multiple demonstrations of intercontinental ballistic missiles designed to reach the U.S. mainland and a slew of short-range launches the North described as simulated nuclear strikes on South Korea.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is widely expected to up the ante in coming weeks or months as he continues to accelerate a campaign aimed at cementing the North’s status as a nuclear power and eventually negotiating U.S. economic and security concessions from a position of strength.
During their summit, Biden and Yoon announced new nuclear deterrence efforts that call for periodically docking U.S. nuclear-armed submarines in South Korea for the first time in decades and bolstering training between the two countries. They also committed to plans for bilateral presidential consultations in the event of a North Korean nuclear attack, the establishment of a nuclear consultative group and improved sharing of information on nuclear and strategic weapons operation plans.
In her comments published on state media, Kim Yo-jong said the U.S.-South Korean agreement reflected the allies’ “most hostile and aggressive will of action” against the North and will push regional peace and security into “more serious danger.”
Kim, who is one of her brother’s top foreign policy officials, said that the summit further strengthened the North’s conviction to enhance its nuclear arms capabilities. She said it would be especially important for the North to perfect the “second mission of the nuclear war deterrent,” in an apparent reference to the country’s escalatory nuclear doctrine that calls for preemptive nuclear strikes over a broad range of scenarios where it may perceive its leadership as under threat.
She lashed out at Biden over his blunt warning that North Korean nuclear aggression would result in the end of its regime, saying he was being “too miscalculating and irresponsibly brave.” However, she said the North wouldn’t simply dismiss his words as a “nonsensical remark from the person in his dotage.”
“When we consider that this expression was personally used by the president of the U.S., our most hostile adversary, it is threatening rhetoric for which he should be prepared for far too great an after-storm,” she said.
“The more the enemies are dead set on staging nuclear war exercises, and the more nuclear assets they deploy in the vicinity of the Korean Peninsula, the stronger the exercise of our right to self-defense will become in direct proportion to them.”
North Korea has long described the United States’ regular military exercises with South Korea as invasion rehearsals, although the allies described those drills as defensive. Many experts say Kim Jong-un likely uses his rivals’ military drills as a pretext to advance his weapons programs, cement his domestic leadership and be recognized as a legitimate nuclear state to get international sanctions on the North lifted.
Kim Yo-jong did not specify the actions the North is planning to take. Her brother said this month that the country has built its first military spy satellite that will be launched at an unspecified date, which will almost certainly be seen by its rivals as a banned test of long-range missile technology. South Korean officials say the North could also be preparing to conduct its first nuclear test since 2017.