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North Korea threatens nuclear ‘annihilation’ if South pre-emptively attacks

Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, attends a wreath-laying ceremony at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam, March 2, 2019. Jorge Silva/AP Photos

The sister of North Korea‘s leader, Kim Jong Un, announced on North Korean airwaves that the country would use its nuclear capabilities to “annihilate” the South Korean military if the country launched a pre-emptive attack.

Besides being the Supreme Leader’s sister, Kim Yo Jong is an influential member of the North Korean government, holding senior positions within the ruling party. In her address broadcast on North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, Kim maintained that Pyongyang does not wish for another Korean war, saying that the South will not become a target unless “the South Korean army takes military action against our state.”

Kim said that in the case of southern aggression, North Korea’s “nuclear combat force will have to inevitably carry out its duty.… A dreadful attack will be launched and the (South Korean) army will have to face a miserable fate little short of total destruction and ruin.”

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This is Kim’s second statement in recent days, prompted by comments made by South Korea’s defence minister, Suh Wook.

During his visit last week to South Korea’s strategic missile command, Suh said Seoul is able to “accurately and quickly hit any target in North Korea” if they detect that Pyongyang intends to attack. These remarks were made amidst domestic worries about North Korea’s recent resumption of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests.

On Sunday, Kim called Suh a “scum-like guy,” for the remarks. She doubled down on Tuesday, saying the defence minister’s comments were a “fantastic daydream” and the “hysteria of a lunatic.”

North Korea carried out its first ICBM test last month after a five-year break. Analysts are speculating that Pyongyang might be ramping up to a nuclear test later this month, on or around April 15, which will be the 110th anniversary of the birth of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung.

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While experts cannot be sure how capable North Korea’s nuclear arsenal is, it could include short-range missiles with the ability to carry nuclear warheads to target South Korea’s military and 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in the country.

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Mounting pressure between the two Koreas could be linked to the upcoming transfer of power in Seoul. Liberal President Moon Jae-in lost the South Korean presidential election to the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol, who wasn’t shy about targeting North Korea on the campaign trail.

Yoon will be sworn into office on May 9 and has vowed to strengthen the country’s defence capabilities against North Korean aggression. While he hasn’t ruled out dialogue with the ruling Kim family, Yoon has also openly discussed a pre-emptive strike strategy against the regime.

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The option of using a tactical pre-emptive strike against Pyongyang is not a new policy for Seoul, but senior government officials typically refrain from publicly discussing the strategy so as to not provoke North Korea.

Seoul has yet to respond to Kim’s most recent comments, but her Sunday remarks had South Korea urging Pyongyang to stop escalating tensions.

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