The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Tuesday the United States risked “causing a stink” if it moved forward with joint military drills with South Korea, Pyongyang’s first official diplomatic statement during President Joe Biden’s administration.
Kim Yo Jong, who serves as a spokesperson for Kim on diplomatic issues, condemned the military exercises and hinted that the North could wage some type of retaliation in a statement published in state-run media.
“We take this opportunity to warn the new U.S. administration trying hard to give off powder smell in our land,” Kim Yo Jong said, warning of what she called a “biting wind” later this month. “If it wants to sleep in peace for coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.”
The U.S. and South Korea have greatly reduced the size of the annual military exercises, which began earlier this month. The drills are being run as a computer simulation without any major troop movements, The New York Times noted, and the South has cited the COVID-19 pandemic and its hopes to keep diplomatic channels open with the North.
But those shifts were not enough for Pyongyang, which has long opposed the drills and often retaliated with displays of military force.
“They say that the drill involves no actual maneuvers with its scale and contents drastically ‘reduced.’ Perhaps, they are expecting ‘flexible judgment’ and ‘understanding’ from us but it is, indeed, ridiculous, impudent and stupid,” Kim said in her statement. “War drill and hostility can never go with dialogue and cooperation.”
North Korea had an on-again off-again diplomatic relationship with the United States under former President Donald Trump. The pair met several times for historic summits that were, according to the White House, supposed to result in a deal that saw North Korea scale down its nuclear and weapons capabilities. Those talks ultimately went nowhere, aside from Trump becoming the first U.S. president to step foot in North Korea.
The Biden administration has attempted to reach out to North Korea since mid-February in hopes of jump-starting diplomacy, Reuters reported last week. Until Tuesday’s statement, Pyongyang had not responded.
“We have a series of channels, as we have always had, that we can reach out through,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday. “Diplomacy is always our goal. Our goal is to reduce the risk of escalation. But to date, we have not received any response.”
Kim said Tuesday the North would consider pulling out of an inter-Korean military agreement signed with South Korea in 2018, and her brother previously said in January any future diplomacy on the Korean Peninsula depended on Seoul.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin landed in Japan this week as part of a joint visit to several allies in Asia. The pair plan to fly to South Korea on Wednesday, where they will meet with President Moon Jae-in and likely discuss North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Biden has already discussed North Korean issues with South Korea, and the two countries have agreed to work closely.