Jorge Silva | Reuters
“We take this opportunity to warn the new U.S. administration trying hard to give off [gun] powder smell in our land,” Kim Yo Jong said in a statement referencing joint U.S. and South Korean military exercises in the region.
“If it [the U.S.] wants to sleep in peace for the coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step,” she added, according to an English translation.
Kim’s comments, carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, are the first reactions from Pyongyang since President Joe Biden took office, and coincided with the arrival of Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in the region.
Blinken and Austin, in their first trip abroad under Biden’s leadership, arrived in Japan on Tuesday and will travel to South Korea on Wednesday. The pair plans to reaffirm U.S. commitments in the region and discuss ongoing security challenges, including North Korea.
“To reduce the risks of escalating, we reached out to the North Korean government channels, starting in mid-February, including in New York. To date we have not received a response from Pyongyang,” Blinken said during a news conference on Tuesday. “This follows over a year without active dialogue with North Korea despite multiple attempts by the United States.”
Lloyd Austin, U.S. secretary of defense, left, and Antony Blinken, U.S. secretary of state, wear protective face masks as they attend the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (SCC) meeting in Tokyo, Japan, on Tuesday, March 16, 2021.
Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Biden administration not to let up on the crippling economic pressure placed on North Korea.
“I hope that this administration will engage with North Korea with the same massive sanctions regime that we did, which put real pressure on Chairman Kim to come to the table,” Pompeo told Fox Business on Sunday. “We made some good progress. We didn’t get all the way. We got them to cease long-range missile testing, a big deal for the United States of America and our security,” he added.
The Trump administration made some initial progress with North Korea, but the negotiations broke down more than a year ago after the U.S. refused to grant sanctions relief in exchange for Pyongyang’s dismantling of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
The Biden administration has tried unsuccessfully to restart nuke talks with North Korea.
Under third-generation North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the reclusive state has conducted its most powerful nuclear test, launched its first-ever intercontinental ballistic missile and threatened to send missiles into the waters near the U.S. territory of Guam.
Since 2011, Kim has launched more than 100 missiles and conducted four nuclear weapons tests, which is more than what his father, Kim Jong Il, and grandfather, Kim Il Sung, launched over a period of 27 years.