North Korea has warned it will not hesitate to destroy major targets in Seoul, the South Korea capital, if provoked by “dangerous military action”.
The threat follows a South Korean minister’s remarks about his country’s ability to hit the North, including a pre-emptive strike.
On Friday, defence minister Suh Wook said his country’s military has a variety of missiles with significantly improved range, accuracy and power and “the ability to accurately and quickly hit any target in North Korea”.
Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, said in a statement on Sunday that the comments “further worsened the inter-Korean relations and military tension”, according to state news agency KCNA.
Minister 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 his country’s “enemy”.
Kim, the vice-director of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party, 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, North Korean senior official Pak Jong-chon said the North “will mercilessly direct all its military force into destroying major targets in Seoul and the south Korean army” in the event of military action such as a pre-emptive strike.
Provocative missile tests
Tensions in the Korean peninsula have sharply escalated in recent weeks after North Korea tested two ballistic missiles on February 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 US 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 in May, who has said in the past that pre-emptive 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.