South Korean Mention of Preemptive Strike Enrages Northern Neighbor

The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un lashed out at South Korea’s defense minister Sunday for talking about preemptive strikes on the North during a visit to the South’s strategic missile command.

Kim Yo Jong unleashed a blistering response against Suh Wook, who discussed the South’s ability and readiness to hit North Korea with precision strikes. Calling Suh a “senseless” and “scum-like” person for mentioning preemptive strikes against a nuclear state, Kim warned that the South should “discipline itself if it wants to stave off disaster.”

It is widely speculated that her statements may signal a more hardline stance on South Korea and further weapons testing. Experts also believe North Korea may soon conduct another ICBM test, launch a satellite-carrying rocket, or even test a nuclear device.

Pak Jong Chon of North Korea’s Workers Party central committee declared that talk of preemptive strikes may lead to “dangerous conflict and a full-blown war.”

North Korea recently restarted missile testing, including a massive intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that surprised international observers and alarmed both Japan and the South. It was less than four years ago when relations between the two sides appeared to be warming, but that is becoming more of a memory every day.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s single five-year term ends next month, and the liberal leader will be replaced by conservative Yoon Suk Yeol. During his campaign, Yoon drew criticism for openly discussing a preemptive strike strategy if the North were thought to be about to launch.

The U.S. has repeatedly urged Kim Jong Un to return to nuclear talks without preconditions, but Kim insists on the U.S. changing its “hostility” towards his country. Instead, Kim pledges to expand the North’s nuclear arsenal as a deterrent to foreign aggression.

It is no secret that both South Korea and the United States have discussed preemptive strikes against Kim Jong Un and North Korea, and contingency plans when facing a nuclear capable belligerent are both intelligent and necessary. Making public statements about such contingencies, statements that are sure to inflame already unstable leaders who have nuclear buttons? Perhaps not so much.