The influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has warned Washington against any attempt to “smear the smell of gunpowder,” state media reported on Tuesday, as US Secretaries of Defense and Business foreigners began a visit to Tokyo and Seoul.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pentagon Chief Lloyd Austin arrived in Japan on Monday, the inaugural stage of their first overseas trip to strengthen U.S. ties with its allies in the region in the face of the growing influence from China and to display a united front against Pyongyang.
This statement by Kim Yo Jong is the first explicit reference, without however naming it, to the new American president on behalf of this country equipped with the nuclear weapon, more than four months after the election of Joe Biden to the succession of Donald Trump.
The United States and South Korea began joint military maneuvers last week, and the Rodong Sinmun, quoted by South Korean news agency Yonhap, reported a statement by Kim Yo Jong in which she offers “a advice to the new American administration which is trying to spread a smell of powder on our country ”.
“If you want to sleep peacefully for the next four years (duration of an American presidential mandate, editor’s note), you would do well not to do anything that makes you lose sleep,” said Ms. Kim, according to Rodong Sinmun.
Donald Trump’s atypical foreign policy had given rise to exchanges of insults and threats of war with Kim Jong-un, followed by an extraordinary diplomatic honeymoon marked by summits between the two leaders.
These relations did not ultimately lead to progress towards a denuclearization of North Korea, subject to multiple international sanctions because of its nuclear program.
The negotiation process was conducted through South Korean President Moon Jae-in, but relations between Seoul and Pyongyang have deteriorated sharply since the failure of the Kim-Trump summit in Hanoi in February 2019.
Since then, Pyongyang has isolated itself further, notably closing its borders to protect itself from the COVID-19 pandemic, which first appeared in neighboring China.
Shortly before Joe Biden’s inauguration in January, North Korea unveiled a submarine-launchable ballistic missile during a military parade.
The influence of Kim Yo Jong, one of her brother’s closest advisers, has grown steadily over the past year. It appeared to be at the heart of the North Korean strategy of rupture with Seoul, symbolized by the destruction in June of the inter-Korean liaison office located in the North.
A few days earlier, Mr. Kim had called the United States “the main enemy” of his country.
“North Korea judged that the United States would not offer enough concessions and therefore released this statement before Mr. Blinken and Mr. Austin visited Seoul,” said Shin Beom -chul of the Institute. Korean Research Institute for National Security.
According to him, it is “highly probable” that Pyongyang will decide on a military provocation during or immediately after the Americans’ trip.
Some 28,500 American soldiers are stationed in South Korea to protect it from a possible attack and Seoul and Washington, united by a military alliance. They started computer simulated military exercises last week.
Pyongyang condemns such training, which it describes as preparation for an invasion. “The South Korean government has once again chosen ‘the War March’, ‘the Crisis March’,” Kim Yo Jong said in his statement.
“These hot spring days of three years ago, which they so desire, will not return easily”, she added, threatening to end a North-South military agreement “if they dare to resort to to new provocations ”.
Mr. Blinken and Mr. Austin arrived in Tokyo on Monday where they met with their Japanese counterparts about China and Washington’s policy towards North Korea.
In a joint statement, they called for “the complete denuclearization of North Korea”.
Mr. Blinken, however, declined to comment on Kim Yo Jong’s comments reported Tuesday.
“We are looking at whether various additional pressure measures might be effective, whether diplomatic channels make sense, this is all under consideration,” Blinken said.