North Korean leader’s sister calls South’s live-fire drills ‘suicidal hysteria’

SEOUL, July 8 (UPI) — Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, condemned recent live-fire drills held by South Korea’s military as a form of “suicidal hysteria” and threatened retaliation Monday.

In recent weeks, the South has conducted live-fire ammunition exercises near both the tense maritime border in the Yellow Sea and the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas.

The drills are the first of their kind in six years and come after South Korea withdrew last month from a 2018 inter-Korean military accord meant to reduce tensions along the border. Pyongyang unilaterally suspended the agreement in November.

“I affirm that such an undisguised war game being staged by the enemy near the border of the DPRK is just an inexcusable and explicit provocation that aggravates the situation,” Kim said in a statement carried by the government-run Korean Central News Agency.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.

Kim said the drills represented “suicidal hysteria, for which [South Korea] will have to sustain terrible disaster.”

Seoul suspended the inter-Korean military agreement in early June after Pyongyang launched balloons carrying trash and excrement over the border.

The DMZ has also been the site of multiple border incursions by North Korean troops over the past month. On each occasion, the South Korean military fired warning shots and the North’s soldiers returned to their side of the border.

North Korean soldiers have been observed clearing land, laying mines, reinforcing tactical roads and installing structures that appear to be anti-tank barriers at several locations, Seoul’s military said.

In her statement Monday, Kim claimed the drills were an attempt by South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s administration to distract from his mounting unpopularity at home.

Kim cited an online petition calling for the impeachment of Yoon, which surpassed 1 million signatures last week.

“Yoon and his group, plunged into the worst ruling crisis, are attempting an ’emergency escape’ through the platform of ever-escalating tensions,” she said.

A spokesman for the South’s Unification Ministry, which oversees inter-Korean affairs, dismissed Kim’s comments as an effort to stir up social discord.

“It is very regrettable that North Korea is interfering in our internal affairs by criticizing our head of state,” spokesman Koo Byoung-sam said at a briefing Monday.

“I make it clear once again that North Korea’s attempt to divide public opinion in our society will never work,” Koo said. “The North Korean regime should first look at itself as it isolates itself from the international community through its nuclear and missile provocations, ignores the people’s livelihood and suppresses basic human rights.”

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