June 15, 2020 09:52
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister on Saturday threatened unspecified military action against South Korea in what appears to be an increasingly frantic bid for attention.
In a statement, Kim Yo-jong said, "By exercising my power authorized by the supreme leader, our party and the state, I gave an instruction to the arms of the department in charge of the affairs with enemy to decisively carry out the next action," according to the official [North] Korean Central News Agency.
Ten days earlier she had issued a shrilly worded demand to stop South Korean activists from sending propaganda leaflets attached to helium balloons across the border.
In the statement she also warned the "useless" inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong will be "completely collapsed."
She added ominously, "The right to taking the next action against the enemy will be entrusted to the General Staff of our army." Kim Yo-jong also advised the South not to underestimate her comments as mere saber-rattling.
Cheong Wa Dae held an emergency meeting at midnight on Sunday, just three hours after the North released the statement. A Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson said the government "discussed the situation of the Korean Peninsula and response measures" but did not protest or say what the response will be.
The government earlier tried to appease the North by threatening to outlaw the leaflet campaign and prosecute activists, who are mostly North Korean defectors. But the performance failed to quell North Korea's rhetoric, suggesting that something else is behind its recent histrionics.
Some pundits believe the regime is simply looking for a distraction from dire economic woes amid international sanctions and the coronavirus lockdown.
Shin Beom-chul at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy suggested the North wants to "shift the blame on the U.S. for the failed nuclear negotiations and on South Korea for failing to play the role of mediator" to justify continuing with its nuclear program.
Some North Korean guard posts were spotted by South Korean intelligence taking out 14.5-mm anti-aircraft guns and using them for target practice. One intelligence source said they practiced assuming firing positions, which "appears to have been a warning that the North may shoot down balloons that fly over the border from the South."
U.S. President Donald Trump, confronted with the complete failure of his charm offensive toward Kim Jong-un, said it is not the responsibility of the U.S. to resolve foreign conflicts.
In a commencement speech to graduates of the West Point military academy, Trump said, "It is not the duty of U.S. troops to solve ancient conflicts in faraway lands that many people have never heard of." Nor is it their job "to rebuild foreign nations, but to defend and defend strongly our nation from our foreign enemies," he added.
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