North Korean leader’s sister threatens South

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The influential sister of North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has said the country’s nuclear forces would “annihilate” the South Korean military if it launched a pre-emptive strike against the regime.

Kim Yo-jong, who holds several senior positions in the government and ruling party, said the North had no intention of starting a second Korean war, but would respond if provoked and leave the South’s military in a state of “total destruction and ruin”.

Her comments after South Korea’s defence minister, Suh Wook, publicly discussed Seoul’s ability to “accurately and quickly hit any target in North Korea” with a range of weapons, as international unease grows over the North’s recent resumption of long-range missile tests. In another statement directed toward Suh on Sunday, she called him a “scum-like guy”.

Kim Yo-jong’s warning, while not unusual in its vivid use of language, points to a rise in tensions on the peninsula after the North last month conducted its first test of an intercontinental ballistic missile for five years, and amid speculation that the regime could be preparing to carry out a nuclear test later this month.

In her second statement in the space of a few days, Kim said Pyongyang opposed war and did not view South Korea as its principal enemy. “In other words, it means that unless the South Korean army takes military action against our state, it will not be regarded as a target,” she said.

“But if South Korea, for any reason – whether or not it is blinded by misjudgment – opts for such military action as ‘preemptive strike’ touted by (Suh Wook), the situation will change. In that case, South Korea itself will become a target.”

The South, she added, could avoid that fate by abandoning its “fantastic daydream” of launching an attack on the North, a nuclear-armed state whose arsenal could include nuclear-capable short-range weapons targeting South Korean conventional forces and 28,500 US troops based in the country.