The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has rejected South Korea's “foolish” offers of economic help in exchange for denuclearisation steps.

Key points:

  • Kim Yo-jong's comments have been labelled disrespectful to South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol
  • A ministry spokesperson says her remarks “threaten peace” and will “result in further difficulties for the North” by isolating it further from the world
  • South Korea and the US have just begun their biggest large-scale military drills in years 

Kim Yo Jong — one of the most-powerful officials in her brother's government, who oversees inter-Korean affairs — accused Seoul of recycling proposals that the North had already rejected.

She stressed in a commentary published by North Korean media this week that her country had no intentions of giving away its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles program for economic cooperation.

“No-one barters its destiny for corn cake,” she said.

Ms Kim questioned the sincerity of South Korea's calls for improved bilateral relations while it continued its combined military exercises with the United States and failed to stop civilian activists from flying anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets and other “dirty waste” across their border.

She also ridiculed South Korea's military capabilities, saying it had misread the launch site of North Korea's latest missile tests on Wednesday, hours before South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol used a news conference to urge Pyongyang to return to diplomacy.

South Korea's Unification Ministry — which handles inter-Korean affairs — expressed “strong regret” over Ms Kim's comments.

North Korea's Kim Yo Jong rejects South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol's 'foolish' offer of aid in exchange for denuclearisation

There were concerns Kim Yo-jong's threats last week over leaflets being dropped from balloon could amount to provocation.(AP: Korean Central News Agency)

It said they were disrespectful to South Korea's President and reaffirmed the North Korea's desire to continue developing nuclear weapons.

“This attitude from North Korea will not only threaten peace on the Korean Peninsula, but [it will also] result in further difficulties for the North by worsening its international isolation and economic situation,” said Lee Hyo-jung, a ministry spokesperson.

Last week, Ms Kim had threatened “deadly” retaliation against the South over the COVID-19 outbreak in the North, which it dubiously claims was caused by leaflets and other objects dropped from balloons launched by southern activists.

Mr Yoon had proposed an “audacious” economic assistance package for North Korea if it took steps to abandon its nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles program.

The offers of large-scale aid in food and health care as well as modernising electricity generation systems, seaports and airports were similar to previous proposals rejected by the North.

Ms Kim said Mr Yoon displayed the “height of absurdity” with his offer, saying it was as realistic as creating “mulberry fields in the dark blue ocean”.

She said South Korea's words and actions would only incite “surging hatred and wrath” from North Koreans and insisted that Pyongyang had no immediate plans to revive long-stalled diplomacy talks with Seoul.

“It is our earnest desire to live without awareness of each other,” she said.

Inter-Korean ties have worsened amid a stalemate in larger nuclear negotiations between North Korea and the US that derailed in 2019.

There were concerns Ms Kim's threats last week over the leaflet drops could lead to a nuclear or missile test or even border skirmishes.

On Wednesday, Mr Yoon expressed hope for meaningful dialogue with the North over his aid-for-disarmament proposal.

He said his government had no plans to pursue its own nuclear deterrent and doesn't desire political change in Pyongyang that's brought by force.

North Korea's Kim Yo Jong rejects South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol's 'foolish' offer of aid in exchange for denuclearisation

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol says he hopes negotiations between the two nations can continue. (AP Photo: Chung Sung-Jun/Pool)

Mr Yoon spoke hours after South Korea's military detected North Korea firing two suspected cruise missiles toward the sea and identified the western coastal site of Onchon as the launch location.

Ms Kim said the weapons were fired from a bridge in the city of Anju, north of Onchon, and farther inland, and ridiculed South Korean and US capacities to monitor North Korean missile activity.

South Korea's military has yet to release its analysed flight details of those missiles.

“If the data and flight trajectory [of the missiles] are known, [the South] will be so bewildered and afraid,” Ms Kim said.

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“It will be a thing worthy of seeing how they will explain about it before their people.”

The latest launches extended a record pace in North Korean missile testing in 2022, which has involved more than 30 ballistic launches, including the country's first demonstrations of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) in nearly five years.

Analysts said North Korea's heightened testing activity underscored its dual intent: to advance its arsenal, and to force the US to accept it as a nuclear power so that it can negotiate economic and security concessions from a position of strength.

Kim Jong Un could up the ante soon, with indications that North Korea is preparing to conduct its first nuclear test since September 2017, when it claimed to have developed a thermonuclear weapon to fit on its ICBMs.

AP

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