North Korea opposes war but would use nuclear weapons if South Korea attacked, Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of leader Kim Jong Un, said on Tuesday, in a warning that analysts said is probably aimed at the South’s incoming conservative president.
For the second time this week, Kim Yo Jong berated South Korea for touting its supposed pre-emptive strike capabilities against the North. Kim Yo Jong said her country’s nuclear forces would annihilate the South’s conventional forces if provoked. In a statement carried by North Korea’s state media, she called South Korea Defence Minister Suh Wook’s recent comments about pre-emptive strikes a “fantastic daydream” and the “hysteria of a lunatic.”
South Korean Defence Minister Suh Wook had said on Friday that his country’s military has a variety of missiles with significantly improved range, accuracy, and power, with “the ability to accurately and quickly hit any target in North Korea.”
Both Koreas have increased displays of military strength after North Korea test-fired a range of increasingly powerful missiles this year. Officials in Seoul and Washington also fear it may be preparing to resume testing nuclear weapons for the first time since 2017 amid stalled negotiations.
Some experts say the North may up the ante in the coming months, possibly test-flying missiles over Japan or resuming nuclear explosive tests, as it tries to get a response from the Biden administration, which is distracted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and an intensifying rivalry with China.
The renewed tensions have been a major setback for outgoing South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a dovish liberal who had staked his presidential term on his ambitions for inter-Korean rapprochement. During a visit to the country’s strategic missile command last week, Suh said South Korea has the ability and readiness to launch precision strikes on North Korea if it detects the North intends to fire missiles at South Korea.