N Korean leader, powerful sister issue nuclear threat to US, S Korea

It is rare for Kim Jong Un and Kim Yo Jong to simultaneously make such threats.
By Lee Jeong-Ho for RFA
2023.12.20
Seoul, South Korea
N Korean leader, powerful sister issue nuclear threat to US, S Korea North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un speaks at the 5th National Meeting of Mothers in Pyongyang in this picture released by the Korean Central News Agency on Dec. 5, 2023.
KCNA via Reuters

The North Korean leader and his powerful sister issued nuclear threats against the United States and South Korea, official media reported Thursday, declaring that Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal will be deployed in retaliation to any “provocations.”

“We will not hesitate to launch a nuclear attack if provoked by nuclear weapons from our enemies,” the leader Kim Jong Un said, as cited by the North’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper.

Speaking to soldiers responsible for an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch on Monday, Kim praised the test-launch as a “bold move” against the U.S. and its main allies – whom he described as “the destroyer of peace and stability.”

The launch was a “clear demonstration of our nation’s assertive response strategy to retaliate without hesitation with a nuclear attack if provoked by nuclear weapons, and an explicit explanation of the evolution of our nuclear strategy and doctrine,” he said.

North Korea fired its latest solid-fueled ICBM, the Hwasong-18, Monday, with the launch reaching a maximum altitude of about 6,500 kilometers (4,040 miles) and flying a distance of around 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) before hitting its target off its eastern coast.

Although the test was conducted at a high angle, it still represented a potential threat to the U.S. If launched at a lower trajectory, this missile may be capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.

Separately, the North Korean leader’s influential sister Kim Yo Jong sharply criticized the U.S. and South Korea on Thursday. She criticized the allies for their coordinated actions during a United Nations meeting on Monday.

“It focused solely on condemning our self-defense actions, while neglecting the verbal and active provocations by the United States and South Korea, which directly provoked our response,” she said, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency. 

“Hostile forces should contemplate how the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [North Korea] will perceive, categorize, and react to the upcoming military plans against us by the United States and the Republic of Korea [South Korea],” she added. 

It is rare for Kim Jong Un and Kim Yo Jong to simultaneously make such threats. Typically, these statements of criticism come from either one or the other - not both on the same day. 

Their remarks came as the U.S., South Korea and Japan conducted trilateral joint air drills off the southeastern coast of the Korean peninsula Wednesday. The drill included the strategic U.S. B-1B bomber plane, capable of carrying 57 tons of conventional armaments, according to the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. 

North Korea has consistently protested the trilateral military exercises involving U.S. strategic assets near the Korean Peninsula, labeling them as “practice for invasion.” Pyongyang perceives these joint drills as a direct threat. Its conventional military capabilities are significantly outmatched by those of the allied forces. 

Edited by Taejun Kang.

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