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SEOUL, Aug 19 (Reuters) – North Korea’s Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of leader Kim Jong Un, said on Friday that South Korea’s president should “shut up” after he reiterated that his country was willing to offer economic aid in exchange for nuclear disarmament.
His comments are the first time a senior North Korean official has commented directly on what South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has called a “bold” plan, first proposed in May and returned to speak Wednesday at a press conference to mark his first 100 days in office.
“It would have been more favorable for his image to keep his mouth shut, instead of talking nonsense, as he had nothing better to say,” Kim Yo Jong said in a statement released by state news agency KCNA, calling Yoon ” really simple and still childish.” to think that he could exchange economic cooperation for the honor of the North and nuclear weapons.
“No one trades their destiny for corn pie,” he added.
South Korea’s Unification Minister, who handles relations with the North, called Kim’s comments “very disrespectful and indecent.”
While Yoon has said he is willing to provide gradual economic aid to North Korea if it ends nuclear weapons development and begins denuclearization, he has also pushed to increase South Korea’s military deterrence against North Korea. South Korea has resumed long-suspended joint exercises with the United States, including major field exercises that begin next week.
On Wednesday, a US State Department spokesman said Washington supported Yoon’s policies, but Kim said the joint exercises show the allies’ talk of diplomacy is insincere.
“Let’s make it clear that we’re not going to sit down with him,” he said of Yoon.
Kim Yo Jong has become a vocal critic of South Korea in recent years, seen by some experts as the “bad cop” to her brother’s more muted statements.
Friday’s statement is his harshest personal attack on Yoon yet, but this month he also released a profanity-laced rant that blamed the South for a COVID-19 outbreak in the North and threatened “deadly reprisals” if there were more events.
Experts say the South’s latest economic plan is similar to proposals by previous leaders, including those at summits between then-US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un.
“Yoon’s initiative adds to a long list of failed deals involving promises by South Korea to provide economic benefits to North Korea… These were the same assumptions behind a succession of failed efforts to start denuclearization talks,” Scott Snyder, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations think tank, said in a blog post on Thursday.
North Korea launched two cruise missiles into the sea on Wednesday, the first such test in two months. It came after the country declared victory over COVID-19 last week. Read more
Reporting by Joori Roh; Additional reporting by Josh Smith and Soo-hyang Choi; Edited by Richard Pullin and Edwina Gibbs
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