SEOUL — North Korea on Tuesday denounced Washington for raising “a stink” on the Korean Peninsula by going forward with joint military exercises with South Korea, striking a confrontational tone in its first official comment on the Biden administration.
“We take this opportunity to warn the new U.S. administration trying hard to give off a powder smell in our land,” Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, said in a statement carried by state-run North Korean media on Tuesday. “If it wants to sleep in peace for the coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.”
Ms. Kim, who serves as her brother’s spokeswoman in North Korea’s relations with Seoul and Washington, dedicated most of her statement to criticizing Seoul for pushing ahead with its annual military drills with the United States this month, despite warnings from her brother.
The statement came as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III touched down in Japan for their joint visit this week. Mr. Blinken and Mr. Austin were scheduled to fly to South Korea on Wednesday to meet with President Moon Jae-in and other senior South Korean leaders. How to deal with North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile threat sits high on their agenda.
The Biden administration has attempted to reach North Korea through multiple channels in recent weeks, but Pyongyang has been unresponsive, according to the White House.
In her statement, Mr. Kim accused South Korea of opting for “war in March” and “crisis in March,” instead of “warmth in March,” by starting the joint military drills, which the North has described as rehearsals for invasion.
Under former President Donald J. Trump, Washington and Seoul suspended or scaled down their joint military drills to support diplomacy with Mr. Kim. After three meetings, Mr. Trump’s talks with Mr. Kim collapsed without a deal on how to end North Korea’s growing nuclear and missile capabilities.
Still, the United States and South Korea greatly reduced the scale of this year’s annual springtime military exercise, conducting it as a computer simulation without any large movement of troops. South Korea said that the drill was minimized this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic and a desire to keep diplomatic momentum with North Korea alive. It called on the North to become more “flexible” and not to raise tensions, as it often did during the past in response to the United States-South Korean drills.
On Tuesday, Ms. Kim called the South Korea’s diplomatic wishes “ridiculous, impudent and stupid.” She warned that North-South Korean relations would further deteriorate because Seoul had already crossed a “red line.”
“War drill and hostility can never go with dialogue and cooperation,” she said. “They are about to bring a biting wind, not warm wind expected by all, in the spring days of March.”
She did not elaborate on what the “biting wind” would constitute, but she indicated that North Korea may abolish its Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, saying the ruling Workers’ Party organization focused on dialogue with the South “has no reason for its existence.”
She also warned that North Korea may consider terminating a joint North-South Korean military agreement that Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon signed in 2018 during a short-live rapprochement.
“It is the conclusion drawn by us once again that we have nothing to talk with them,” Ms. Kim said.
After his diplomacy with Mr. Trump failed to lift sanctions against his country, Mr. Kim vowed to further advance his country’s nuclear capabilities. In a party meeting in January, he declared that North Korea would build new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missiles and make its nuclear warheads lighter and more precise.
North Korea has also turned cool toward South Korea, ending all official dialogue with Seoul and blowing up an inter-Korean liaison office. In the party meeting in January, Mr. Kim warned that returning inter-Korean relations to a “point of peace and prosperity” depended on South Korea’s behavior.
And while Mr. Kim himself has largely refrained from personal attacks against Mr. Trump and Mr. Moon, his sister has frequently been dispatched to issue blistering statements against both Washington and Seoul.