North Korea has bluntly spurned Seoul's offer of economic support in exchange for denuclearization, calling South Korea’s President Yoon Suk-yeol "simple" and "childish".
Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, made the remarks on Thursday in response to Yoon's disarmament-for-aid deal under which South Korea offered phased economic assistance to Pyongyang if it gives up nuclear weapons.
Kim, a senior official in the North's ruling Workers' Party, declared that her country would never sacrifice its nuclear weapons in return for economic assistance from the estranged neighbor.
It is the first reaction from a high-ranking North Korean official to Yoon's "audacious plan", which he reiterated on Wednesday at a news conference to mark his first 100 days in office.
“It would have been more favorable for his image to shut his mouth,” Kim Yo Jong said in a statement released by state news agency KCNA, calling Yoon “really simple and still childish”.
"No one barters its destiny for corn cake," she asserted.
The North Korean leader further said that Yoon's "predecessors" and even "their master" the United States had failed to "make the North abandon nukes", adding that the incumbent South Korean leader's "pipedream-like remarks" made him look "miserable".
The aid plan that was first proposed in May and put forward this week by Yoon includes food, energy, and infrastructure help in return for the North abandoning its nuclear weapons program.
“The audacious initiative that I envision will significantly improve North Korea’s economy and its people’s livelihoods in stages if the North ceases the development of its nuclear program and embarks on a genuine and substantive process for denuclearization,” Yoon said said on Monday.
Kim dismissed the offer as the "height of absurdity."
“Though he may knock at the door with what large plan in the future as his ‘bold plan’ does not work, we make it clear that we will not sit face to face with him,” Kim was quoted as saying.
She also accused Yoon of conducting “invasion war exercises” with the US, as Seoul and Washington prepare for large-scale military drills this month, including major field exercises due to begin next week.
South Korea's Unification Minister, who handles relations with the North, described Kim's comments as "very disrespectful and indecent."
The country's presidential office expressed "strong regret" over her "rude" remarks, but added that the offer of economic aid remained in place.
"North Korea's attitude is in no way helpful to the peace and prosperity of the Korean peninsula, as well as its own future, and only promotes isolation from the international community," it said in a statement.
Tensions between the two estranged neighbors have heightened in recent years, fueled by South Korea's growing alliance with the US and Washington's sanctions against Pyongyang.
North Korea has carried out many weapons tests this year, including the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time since 2017.
Earlier this week, in its first weapons test since early last month, North Korea fired two cruise missiles into the sea.
It came a day after South Korea and the US began a four-day preliminary joint drill in preparation for the live field exercise known as Ulchi Freedom Shield, which takes place from August 22 to September 1.
Kim said that Seoul would be “embarrassed and scared” if details of this week’s “weapons test” were to become known, implying it may be a new type of weapon.