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North Korea blasts South Korean minister’s remarks on preemptive strike

In this file picture taken on April 27, 2018, North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L) signs the guest book next to his sister Kim Yo Jong (R) during the Inter-Korean summit with South Korea's former President Moon Jae-in. (File Photo by AFP)

North Korea has blasted the South Korean defense minister over his remarks about preemptive strikes on the North, warning that the South may face “a serious threat.”

Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said in a statement on Sunday that “South Korea may face a serious threat owing to the reckless remarks made by its defense minister,” according to North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

During a visit to the country’s strategic missile command on Friday, South Korean defense minister Suh Wook said his army had missiles with “the ability to accurately and quickly hit any target in North Korea” in the case of clear signs of a launch toward the South.

“His reckless and intemperate rhetoric about the ‘preemptive strike’ has further worsened the inter-Korean relations and the military tension on the Korean Peninsula,” Kim Yo Jong said blasting Suh’s remarks.

Kim Yo Jong, a senior official in the North’s ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK), is in charge of relations with Seoul and Washington and is well known for her influence on inter-Korean affairs.

Kim described her message as a "warning upon authorization," suggesting that it was endorsed by her brother.

“As long as the South Korean military revealed its intent to seek provocative incentive of serious level and escalate a showdown with the DPRK, I will give a serious warning upon authorization,” Kim said, using the acronym for the North’s official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

In a separate statement on Sunday, Pak Jong Chon, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, said the North “will mercilessly direct all its military force into destroying major targets in Seoul and the south Korean army” if the South Korean army engages in a dangerous military action such as a pre-emptive strike.

The strongly worded statement against South Korea came as it is preparing for a power transition. President Moon Jae-in, who has sought hard to improve Seoul-Pyongyang ties, is ending his five-year term next month, with the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol elected as his successor.

Meanwhile relations between the countries have been shaky in recent weeks after North Korea tested two ballistic missiles on February 26 and March 4 that involved a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) system that the country is developing, and as it conducted a full ICBM test – the first since 2017 – last week.

Tensions may rise further as South Korea’s President-elect is set to take office next month and is known for a tougher stance toward the North. Yoon has said in the past that pre-emptive strikes may be the only way to counter North Korea’s new hyper-sonic missiles if they appear ready for an imminent attack.

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