The powerful sister of North Korea’s leader has said her country will stage more displays of military might in response to a new US-South Korean nuclear deterrence agreement and compared Joe Biden’s comments about it as a “nonsensical remark from the person in his dotage”.
Kim Yo-jong’s broadside came after Biden attended a summit with the South Korean president, Yoon Suk-yeol, on Wednesday. The US president said later that any North Korean nuclear attack on the US or its allies would “result in the end of whatever regime” took such action.
Kim responded that Biden was “too miscalculating and irresponsibly brave”. “It may be taken as a nonsensical remark from the person in his dotage who is not at all capable of taking the responsibility for security and the future of the US, an old man with no future, as it is too much for him to serve out two-year remainder of his office term,” Kim said, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.
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 US-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 US mainland and a slew of short-range launches the North described as simulated nuclear strikes on South Korea.
The 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 US 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 US 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 Kim Yo-jong’s comments, published on state media, she said the US-South Korean agreement reflected the allies’ “most hostile and aggressive will of action” against the North and would push regional peace and security into “more serious danger”.
Kim, who is one of her brother’s top foreign policy officials, said 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 added: “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-defence will become in direct proportion to them.”
North Korea has long described the US’s regular military exercises with South Korea as invasion rehearsals, while the allies describe 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 recognised as a legitimate nuclear state to get international sanctions on the North lifted.