North Korea warns of nuclear response if South provokes it

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — For the second time this week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s powerful sister scolded South Korea for touting its alleged preemptive strike capabilities against North Korea, saying her country’s nuclear forces they would annihilate the conventional forces of the South. if provoked.

In a statement released Tuesday by North Korean state media, Kim Yo Jong called South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook’s recent comments about pre-emptive strikes a “fantastic dream” and the “hysteria of a lunatic”.

He stressed that North Korea does not want another war on the Korean Peninsula, but warned that it would retaliate with its nuclear forces if the South opts for preemptive strikes or other strikes, leaving the South’s military “little less than in total destruction and ruin. ”

North Korea has repeatedly declared that it would use its nuclear weapons preemptively when threatened by rivals as it accelerates its development of nuclear bombs and missiles, which Kim Jong Un sees as its best guarantee of survival.

In another statement addressed to Suh on Sunday, Kim Yo Jong called him a “scum guy” and warned that the South could face a “serious threat” because of his comments.

His remarks come amid tensions over North Korea’s ramping up of weapons tests this year, including its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017 on March 24, as his brother revives brinkmanship nuclear policy aimed at pressuring to Washington to accept the North as a nuclear power and remove the crippling sanctions

Some experts say the North may up the ante in the coming months, possibly by testing missiles on Japan or resuming nuclear explosives tests, while trying 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 moderate liberal who had staked his presidential term on ambitions for inter-Korean rapprochement.

During a visit to the country’s strategic missile command last week, Suh said South Korea has the capability and readiness to launch precision strikes against North Korea if it detects that the North intends to fire missiles at South Korea. .

Seoul has long maintained such a preemptive strike strategy to deal with North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, but it was highly unusual for a Moon administration official to discuss it publicly.

“Should (South Korea) choose a military confrontation with us, our nuclear fighting force will inevitably have to do its duty… a terrible attack will be launched and the (South Korean) military will have to face a miserable fate little short of total destruction and ruin,” Kim said in his latest statement.

The South Korean government did not immediately respond to his comments. Seoul issued a low-key response following Kim’s earlier comments on Sunday, urging Pyongyang to refrain from further escalating tensions and return to dialogue.

Moon met with Kim Jong Un three times in 2018 and lobbied hard to help set up Kim’s first summit with then-President Donald Trump in June of that year.

But diplomacy went off the rails after the second Kim-Trump meeting in 2019, where the Americans rejected North Korea’s demands for major sanctions relief in exchange for a limited cession of its nuclear capabilities.

Since then, Kim has vowed to bolster his nuclear forces and accelerate weapons development despite limited resources and difficulties related to the pandemic. North Korea has also cut off all inter-Korean cooperation and expressed anger at the US-South Korean military drills and Seoul’s inability to extract concessions from Washington on its behalf.

Before the resumption of long-range tests last month, North Korea had spent much of the past three years expanding its arsenal of nuclear-capable short-range missiles that threatened South Korea.

Experts say those missiles, which could potentially be armed with “tactical” battlefield nukes, communicate the North’s threat to use smaller nuclear weapons even during conventional warfare to defeat South Korea’s stronger conventional forces. South and the US the South to deter North Korean aggression.

Moon’s term ends in May, when he will be succeeded by conservative Yoon Suk Yeol, who is likely to take a tougher line with Pyongyang.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Biden’s special envoy for North Korea, Sung Kim, plans to meet with his Chinese counterpart in Washington to discuss the growing threat from the North. China, Pyongyang’s main ally and economic lifeline, has repeatedly called for the removal of UN Security Council sanctions against North Korea, citing the economic cost to civilians. ___ AP writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

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