N Korea vows stronger attack capabilities over US-S Korea military drills

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ripped South Korea for proceeding with military exercises with the United States she claimed are an invasion rehearsal and warned Tuesday that the North will work faster to strengthen its preemptive strike capabilities.

Kim Yo Jong’s statement came after South Korean media reported the allied militaries will begin four days of preliminary training on Tuesday before holding computer-simulated drills on Aug. 16-26.

Kim said she was delegated authority to release the statement, implying the message came directly from her brother.

She described the South’s decision to hold joint exercises despite earlier warnings by the North was an “act of betrayal” that will push the allies into facing a “more serious security threat.”

She said continuing the drills exposed the hypocrisy of the Biden administration’s offers to resume dialogue over the North’s nuclear weapons program. She said there won’t be stabilized peace on the Korean Peninsula unless the United States withdraws its troops and weapons in the South.

Kim said the North will “spur our efforts to further strengthen our national defense capabilities and (already) strong preemptive strike ability” so that it could swiftly respond to any kind of military action.

North Korea’s angry reaction to the drills further diminishes South Korean hopes for improving bilateral ties, which rose after the North agreed to reopen long-stalled communication channels with the South in late July.

But just days after the lines were restored, Kim warned that the planned military drills between South Korea and the United States will undermine prospects for better inter-Korean ties.

Some analysts say the North’s decision to restore the communication lines was mainly aimed at pushing Seoul to convince Washington to make concessions while nuclear diplomacy remains deadlocked.

The United States keeps about 28,000 troops in South Korea to help deter potential aggression from North Korea, a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War. The allies have yet to officially announce the details of this month’s drills.

A column of troops and armor of the 1st Marine Division move through communist Chinese lines during their successful breakout from the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. (Marine Corps)

The North has long bristled at the joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States, which the allies describe as defensive in nature, and often responds them with its own weapons tests.

In the past few years, however, South Korea and the United States have canceled or downsized some of their training to support the now-dormant diplomacy on ending the North Korean nuclear crisis or because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inter-Korean ties flourished after North Korea reached out to South Korea and the United States in 2018 for talks on its nuclear program. North Korea later cut off ties with South Korea after its larger nuclear diplomacy with the United States stalled in 2019 over disagreements in exchanging the release of crippling U.S.—led sanctions against the North and the North’s denuclearization steps.

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