The influential sister of the North Korean ruler, Kim Jong-un, has called Seoul authorities “traitors” for the South’s joint military exercises with the United States, and warned that the two allies would face greater security threats as a result.
Kim Yo-jong’s latest remarks come despite a surprise thaw on the Korean peninsula, sparked by a series of personal letters between his brother and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
In July, the two sides reestablished cross-border communications that were cut off more than a year ago, announcing that their leaders had agreed to work to improve ties.
But Kim Yo-jong, a key adviser to his brother, said the South was “treacherous” for conducting “dangerous” joint military exercises with Washington this month, which the North has long considered invasion tests.
“I take this opportunity to express my deep regret at the treacherous treatment of the South Korean authorities,” he said in a statement released by Pyongyang’s official KCNA news agency.
Kim’s statement came as the U.S. and South Korean armies began their preliminary training on Tuesday in the run-up to next week’s annual summer exercise.
By conducting the drills, Seoul and Washington “would surely face greater security threats,” he said, and North Korea would strengthen its defense and pre-emptive strike capabilities.
Seoul and Washington are allies of the treaty, with the United States stationing about 28,500 troops in the south to defend it against its nuclear-armed neighbor. Previously, they significantly reduced their annual joint military exercises to facilitate nuclear talks with Pyongyang.
The peaceful Moon of the South is credited with mediating the first ever summit between North Korea and a sitting US president, in Singapore in June 2018. But the North largely cut off contact with Seoul after the collapse. of a second summit between Kim and Donald Trump in Hanoi. That stalled nuclear talks.