Kim Yo-jong threatens to scrap military pact with South
The North’s official media reported Tuesday that Kim Yo-jong, the vice department director of the Central Committee of the North’s ruling Workers' Party, said in a statement Monday, “We will watch the future attitude and actions of the south Korean authorities. And if they dare resort to more provocative acts, we may take a special measure of resolutely abrogating even the north-south military agreement.”
She also warned the new U.S. administration that if “it wants to sleep in peace” for the next four years, “it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step,” in the statement carried by the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency and Rodong Sinmun.
The remarks were made in protest of the annual springtime joint military exercise between Seoul and Washington that kicked off on March 8 and is set to run through Thursday. The computer-simulated drills were held in a scaled down manner this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and did not involve outdoor maneuvers.
However, Kim criticized Seoul and Washington’s argument that the combined exercise was “reduced” in size and noted that the North opposes the joint military drills in itself and “never argued about their scale or form.”
Kim said that the Central Committee reiterated its stance that “whether the inter-Korean relations return to the new starting point of peace and prosperity as witnessed in those spring days three years ago or not depends on the attitude of the south Korean authorities.”
She also threatened to dissolve the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, the Workers' Party agency in charge of inter-Korean dialogue, saying it has “no reason for its existence.”
Kim added that the joint drills held in the spring and fall “might become the last chance for repairing” inter-Korean relations.
Her remarks come at the eve of a joint visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to Seoul Wednesday. It also marks Pyongyang’s first direct message to the Joe Biden administration since its launch in January. Denuclearization negotiations between North Korea and the United States have been stalled since 2019.
Kim last issued a statement lambasting the South over two months ago, on Jan. 12.
Seoul’s Unification Ministry stressed that the joint drills should not be used as an opportunity to escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula in response to Kim’s statement.
“There is no change in our position that inter-Korean relations should be improved at an early date and denuclearization dialogue should be resumed as soon as possible,” a Unification Ministry official told reporters Tuesday. “The government will work towards enabling the drills to be carried out in a way that will contribute toward the Korean Peninsula peace process.”
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]