The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has criticized South Korea’s president and threatened to “totally destroy” bilateral ties after the two countries tested ballistic missiles just hours away.
The missile launch confirmed the return of tensions between the two foes at a time when talks aimed at stripping North Korea of its nuclear program had faltered.
Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, has criticized South Korean President Moon Jae-in over comments he made while monitoring his country’s missile tests, including its first submarine-launched ballistic missile.
Moon said South Korea’s increased missile capabilities would serve as a “certain deterrence” against North Korean provocations.
The tests came hours after the South Korean and Japanese militaries announced that North Korea had launched two ballistic missiles into the sea.
In a statement broadcast by state media, she rebuked Kim Moon for calling the North Korean arms demonstrations a provocation, and warned of the “total destruction” of bilateral ties if he continued what she described as slandering North Korea.
She said North Korea is developing its military capabilities for self-defense without targeting a specific country, and that South Korea is also working to increase its military capabilities.
North Korea has long accused the South of hypocrisy for introducing modern weapons while calling for talks to ease tensions between the divided nations.
“If the president engages in slander and slander (against us), countermeasures will follow, and North-South relations will be pushed toward complete destruction,” she said.
“We don’t want that.”
The South Korean and Japanese militaries said North Korea’s short-range ballistic missiles flew 500 miles (800 kilometers) before landing in the sea within Japan’s exclusive economic zone – a worrying development even though they did not reach Japanese territorial waters. The last time a North Korean missile landed in that area was in October 2019.
South Korean news report on North Korean missiles.
The launch came two days after North Korea announced it had launched a newly developed cruise missile, the first known missile test in six months.
Hours after North Korea’s latest launch, South Korea announced its first test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile.
The president’s office said that while Moon and other senior officials looked on, the missile launched from a submarine and hit a designated target.
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Experts say North Korea is building up its weapons systems to pressure the United States in hopes of easing economic sanctions aimed at forcing North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal.
US-led talks on the issue have stalled for more than two years.
“North Korea is trying to convey the message that things will not go as Washington wishes, if they do not accept North Korea’s demands,” said Moon Seung-mok, an analyst with the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy.
The analyst said North Korea may think it has a chance to win concessions from the administration of US President Joe Biden while it is embroiled in an internal debate after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga condemned the North Korean launches as “outrageous”.
Source: Kim Kyung-hoon / AP
Observers say the Moon government, which is actively seeking reconciliation with North Korea, may have taken measures to appear tougher in response to criticism that it is too lenient with North Korea.
The two rival countries have technically been at war since the 1950-53 Korean War, which pitted North Korea and its ally China against the South and US-led UN forces, and ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the launches “threaten the peace and safety of Japan and the region and are extremely outrageous.”
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