Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, warned on Tuesday that Pyongyang would turn its nuclear arsenal on South Korea in response to any military confrontation. File Photo by Jorge Silva/EPA-EFE/POOL
SEOUL, April 5 (UPI) -- Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, said Tuesday that South Korea was not a "principal enemy" but warned that Pyongyang would unleash a nuclear attack resulting in "total destruction and ruin" if provoked.
"In case [S]outh Korea opts for military confrontation with us, our nuclear combat force will have to inevitably carry out its duty," Kim said in a statement carried by state-run Korean Central News Agency. "It is the primary mission of the nuclear force to prevent such war before anything else, but in case of war, its mission will convert into the one of eliminating the enemy's armed forces at a strike."
The comments were Kim's second response this week to South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook's assertion on Friday that Seoul had the capacity "to accurately and swiftly strike any targets in North Korea" in case of an impending threat.
In a statement Sunday, Kim claimed that "senseless and scum-like guy" Suh was threatening a preemptive strike and said his "reckless" words had raised military tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
On Tuesday, she mocked the threat of a preemptive strike against the nuclear-armed North, calling it a "fantastic daydream" and the "hysteria of a lunatic."
Kim has long been one of her brother's key advisers and was promoted in September to a seat on the State Affairs Commission, North Korea's top decision-making body.
In her latest remarks, Kim said the North would not fire "even a single bullet or shell" toward South Korea if unprovoked, but stressed that it would not hesitate to turn its full nuclear arsenal against its neighbor.
"If the situation reaches such phase, a dreadful attack will be launched and the [S]outh Korean army will have to face a miserable fate little short of total destruction and ruin," she said.
North Korea has conducted a flurry of weapons tests since the start of the year, culminating in the March 24 firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile. It marked the first time Pyongyang had conducted a full launch of an ICBM since November 2017.
At the same time, North Korea has been focusing on the development of new and evasive short-range missiles meant to carry tactical nuclear warheads, which could be deployed in more conventional battles.
Observers have detected heightened activity at North Korea's Punggye-ri nuclear test site in recent months, suggesting a forthcoming detonation. Two major holidays this month -- the birth anniversary of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung on April 15 and the founding date of the North Korean army on April 25 -- are seen as potential occasions for a test.