The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Wednesday criticized the South Korean president and threatened with a “complete destruction” of bilateral relations after both countries tested ballistic missiles at hourly intervals.
The test missile launches emphasized that tensions between rivals are returning at a time when talks aimed at removing North Korea’s nuclear program are coming to a halt.
Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, criticized South Korean President Moon Jae-in for comments he made while observing his country’s missile test, including the first of a submarine-fired ballistic missile. Moon said South Korea’s growing missile capacity would serve as a “sure deterrent” to North Korean provocations.
When Moon and other senior officials watched, the missile flew from a submarine and hit a specific target, the Moon office said. It did not say how far the weapon flew.
The tests came hours after South Korean and Japanese military officials said North Korea had fired two ballistic missiles into the sea.
Self-defense motivation quoted
In a state media statement, Kim Yo-jong praised Moon for describing North Korean weapons demonstrations as a provocation and warned of a “complete destruction” of bilateral relations if he continues with what she described as slander for North Korea.
She said that North Korea was developing its military capabilities for self-defense without targeting a specific country, and that South Korea was also increasing its military capabilities. North Korea has often accused the South of hypocrisy for introducing modern weapons while calling for talks to reduce tensions between the divided countries.
“If the president agrees to slander and humiliation [against us]”This will be followed by countermeasures, and north-south relations will be driven towards complete destruction,” she said. We do not want that. “
South Korean and Japanese military officials said the two short-range ballistic missiles fired by North Korea flew 800 kilometers before landing in the sea inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone – a worrying development even though they did not reach Japanese territorial waters. The last time a North Korean missile landed in that zone was in October 2019.
The launches came two days after North Korea said it was launching a newly developed cruise missile, its first known missile test in six months.
North Korea wants to put pressure on the United States, experts say
The UN Security Council is planning an emergency consultation on North Korean missile launches late Wednesday afternoon at the request of France and Estonia, diplomats said.
Experts say North Korea is building up its weapons systems to put pressure on the United States in hopes of gaining relief from economic sanctions aimed at forcing the Nordic region to abandon its nuclear arsenal. US-led talks on the issue have been halted for more than two years.
“North Korea is trying to convey a message that things will not go the way Washington wants, if it does not accept the Nordic demands,” said Moon Seong Mook, an analyst at the Seoul-based Korea Research Institute for National Strategy.
He said North Korea may think it has a chance now to win concessions from US President Joe Biden’s administration while it is involved in a domestic debate after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Reaction from Japan, USA
Observers say the Moon government, which has actively pursued reconciliation with North Korea, may have taken steps to work harder in response to criticism that it is too soft on the north.
The rival nations are still technically in a state of war since the 1950-53 Korean War, which pitted northern and allied China against the southern and US-led UN forces, ended in a ceasefire, not a peace agreement.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the launches “threaten peace and security in Japan and the region and are outrageous”.
Violation of Security Council resolutions
North Korea’s launches violate UN Security Council resolutions that prevent North Korea from participating in any ballistic missile operation. But the council does not usually impose new sanctions when the north launches short-range missiles, such as those tested on Wednesday.
Wednesday’s test launches came when Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Seoul for meetings with Moon and other senior officials to discuss North Korea and other issues.
It is unusual for North Korea to make provocative launches when China, its last major ally and largest aid supplier, engages in a major diplomatic event. But some experts say North Korea may have used the time to draw extra attention.