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North Korea threatens Biden: If you want to ‘sleep in peace,’ stop war games

Kim Yo Jong accompanying her brother Kim Jong-un with US President Donald Trump at the Singapore summit, June 12, 2018. (White House/Released)
March 16, 2021

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, threatened President Joe Biden’s administration on Tuesday to stop conducting war games with South Korea in North Korea’s first public message to his administration.

“We take this opportunity to warn the new U.S. administration trying hard to give off powder smell in our land,” Kim said in a statement originally carried by state Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and reported by Reuters. “If it wants to sleep in peace for coming four years, it had better refrain from causing a stink at its first step.”

While Kim’s statements about the military drills directly reference the smell of gunpowder, Reuters reported the U.S.-South Korean drills have only included computer simulations this year. The down-scaled war games are due in part to coronavirus concerns and ongoing efforts to reach out to North Korea.

Despite South Korea’s attempts to limit the war games, Kim said, “War drills and hostility can never go with dialogue and cooperation.”

Kim also mocked South Korea for “resorting to shrunken war games, now that they find themselves in the quagmire of political, economic and epidemic crisis.”

South Korea’s Yonhap News agency reported Kim further said, “Whatever the South will do by following its master (the United States), it will not be easy that the warm spring days of three years that it strongly wants will return.” According to Yonhap, “warm spring days” refers to the first three years of South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s presidency, when inter-Korean dialogue was relatively friendly and peace negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea were ongoing.

President Donald Trump sought a denuclearization agreement with North Korea during the “warm spring days” period throughout parts of 2018 and 2019. Trump and Kim Jong Un met multiple times to discuss denuclearization, but no agreement was made during Trump’s presidency. During their second meeting, the two leaders reportedly disagreed over when U.S. sanctions against North Korea would end. As denuclearization talks faltered, Kim Jong Un went on to impose a 2019 year-end deadline to reach a denuclearization deal or cease negotiations. After that deadline passed, North Korea began to increase its tests of ballistic missiles.

Relations between the two Koreas have also faltered in the last year. In June, after South Korean activists tried to spread anti-regime leaflets over the border, North Korea threatened to pull out of a 2018 agreement with the South to limit military drills.

Just weeks later in June, North Korea demolished a liaison office built between the two sides in 2018, to help facilitate inter-Korean dialogue.

In July, North Korea rejected a South Korean invitation to resume denuclearization talks with the U.S. and then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in turn, said then-President Trump would only join the talks if there was a real possibility talks would yield progress.

Reacting to Kim Yo Jong’s latest comments, Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was aware of her remarks, but was more interested in hearing what America’s allies think about North Korea.

Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are traveling in Asia this week to meet with South Korea and Japan.

The Biden administration is also expected to conclude a review of the U.S.-North Korean policy this week and Blinken said Washington is considering additional ways to put pressure on North Korea.