By Joori Roh
SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korea on Sunday condemned the South Korean defence minister’s remarks about its ability to strike against the North and warned it would destroy major targets in Seoul if the South takes any “dangerous military action” such as a preemptive strike.
Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said in a statement that the South Korean defence minister’s remarks “further worsened the inter-Korean relations and military tension on the Korean peninsula,” according to state news agency KCNA.
That comes after the South Korean minister, Suh Wook, said on Friday that his country’s military has a variety of missiles with significantly improved firing range, accuracy and power, with “the ability to accurately and quickly hit any target in North Korea.”
Suh also said the ministry will actively support the military to ensure it has the capability to respond overwhelmingly to North Korea’s missile threats. He called the north its “enemy.”
Kim, the vice department director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, also said the country would “reconsider a lot of things” and that South Korea “may face a serious threat” due to such remarks.
In a separate statement on Sunday, Pak Jong Chon, secretary of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, said the North “will mercilessly direct all its military force into destroying major targets in Seoul and the south Korean army” if the South Korean army engages in a dangerous military action such as a preemptive strike.
The north, however, did not elaborate on where it saw as the major targets within Seoul.
Tensions in the Korean peninsula have sharply escalated in recent weeks after North Korea tested two ballistic missiles on Feb. 26 and March 4 that involved a new ICBM system that the country is developing, and as it conducted a full ICBM test – the first since 2017 – last week.
Following the tests, the United States on Friday imposed sanctions on five entities it accused of providing support to North Korea’s development of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.
Tensions may rise further as South Korea’s President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol is set to take office next month, who has said in the past that preemptive strikes may be the only way to counter North Korea’s new hypersonic missiles if they appear ready for an imminent attack.
Yoon has called for boosting military deterrence, including by strengthening ties with the United States, and has vowed to seek to establish a permanent three-way dialogue channel between South Korea, North Korea and the United States.
(Reporting by Joori Roh; Editing by Richard Chang and Daniel Wallis)