Kim Jong-un's sister threatens South Korea with military action following escalating tensions
Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un - Pool Reuters
The North Korean leader's sister warned of retaliation against South Korea, in which the military could be involved, in the recent escalation of tensions over defectors from the North who have returned propaganda and food.
Kim Yo Jong, who is unofficially one of Kim Jong Un's best helpers, issued the warning in a statement released by the state-run news agency KCNA on Saturday.
"By exercising my authority authorized by the Supreme Leader, our party, and the state, I directed the department responsible for matters involving the enemy to take the next action with determination," said Kim.
Their statement, which did not say what the next action could be, came days after South Korea took legal action against defectors who sent material such as rice and leaflets to the north, usually with a balloon over the fortified border or in bottles from the sea.
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North Korea said it was upset with the defectors and, to mark its displeasure, cut off inter-Korean hotlines last week and threatened to close a liaison office between the two governments.
As part of efforts to improve relations with the North, the government of South Korean President Moon Jae-in has tried to stop the leaflet and rice campaigns, and defectors have complained about the pressure to avoid criticizing North Korea.
According to analysts, North Korea appears to be using the leaflet problem to increase pressure on South Korea in the face of stalled denuclearization talks.
"The leaflets are an excuse or justification to increase stakes, create a crisis, and harass Seoul to get what it wants," said Duyeon Kim, senior advisor to the International Crisis Group, a Belgian-based independent nonprofit organization.
Kim Yo Jong, right, helps her brother, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, sign a joint statement - Pyongyang Press Corps Pool
Pyongyang feels cheated and misled by Seoul's prediction that the United States would lift some sanctions if North Korea shuts down its nuclear reactor site, and is upset that leaflets and U.S. South Korea military exercises continue, Kim said.
"They are upset that Seoul has done nothing to change the environment and are again calling on Seoul to stay out of its nuclear talks with Washington," she added.
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