South Korea convened an emergency security meeting Sunday after the sister of North Korea’s leader threatened military action against South Korea in the latest escalation of tensions between the two neighbors.
Kim Yo Jong, a trusted aide to her brother, Kim Jong Un, said she would leave the right to take the next step of retaliation against South Korea to North Korea’s military in a statement carried Saturday by the state news agency, KCNA.
Kim, who has gained new prominence in North Korea’s power structure, didn’t specify what the next action could be or when exactly it would be taken, but she added: “I feel it is high time to surely break with the South Korean authorities. We will soon take the next action.”
A spokesman for the Blue House, South Korea’s presidential office, said Sunday that the national security council held an emergency video conference to review the situation and to discuss how best to respond.
Kim’s statement Saturday followed her announcement last week that North Korea was suspending all communication lines with South Korea, a move analysts believe could be an attempt to manufacture a crisis and force concessions from its neighbor.
Kim Jin Ah, a North Korea expert at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, a government research center in Seoul, said North Korea is using propaganda leaflets distributed by defectors as an excuse to break “the doldrum” in its negotiations with the U.S.
Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a lecturer in international relations at King’s College London, said it’s reasonable from the North Korean perspective for the regime to try to divert attention from domestic conditions by raising tensions with South Korea. “It makes sense for Kim Yo Jong to lead, or be seen as leading, these increasing tensions. This way she can show that she will be tough with South Korea if necessary,” he said.