Austin stresses alliance with S. Korea against 'unprecedented challenges' from NK, China


Speaking to Pyonyang's propaganda newspaper Rodong Sinmum, Yo-Jung said: "A word of advice to the new administration of the United States that is struggling to spread the smell of gunpowder on our land from across the ocean". "If they want to have a good night's sleep for the next four years, it would be good for them not to do things that would prevent them from sleeping properly from the start". A senior administration official said the review has included discussions with Trump administration officials who were involved with North Korea policy.

U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin are expected to arrive in Seoul, South Korea to discuss "complete denuclearization of North Korea" with their respective Japanese and South Korean counterparts. The State Department declined comment on Kim's remarks.

The warning message took issue with the US and South Korea's joint military drills, which began March 8, the Japan Times reports.

Relations between the U.S. and North Korea plummeted in 2017, when the North tested long-range missiles capable of hitting American cities.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday confirmed the news agency AFP's reports that the Biden administration's outreach efforts toward North Korea have been met with silence.

On Monday, State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters: "To date, we have not received any response from Pyongyang".

But ultimately no progress was made towards Washington's declared aim of denuclearising North Korea, which is under multiple global sanctions for its banned weapons programmes.

The US government said it has been trying to make diplomatic contact with North Korea since February, but to no avail.

President Biden is due to announce a policy review on North Korea next month.

"North Korea has judged that the USA will not offer enough concessions and so has released this statement ahead of Blinken and Austin's visit to Seoul", he told AFP.

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The influential sister of Kim Jong-un also heavily criticised the US and South Korea for conducting joint military exercises in the area.

Kim's statement was the North's first public message to Washington since President Joe Biden took office in January.

The South Korean and U.S. militaries began annual military exercises last week that continue through until Thursday.

The main target of Tuesday's irate statement was South Korea, and Kim Yo Jong made it clear that even a scaled-back exercise, created to target "fellow countrymen", was unacceptable.

She said: "War rehearsals can not coexist with dialogue, hostility can not coexist with cooperation". She did not elaborate on what type of escalation the USA was concerned about.

Despite Pyongyang's repeated criticism and the blowing up previous year of an inter-Korean office, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has staked much of his legacy on engagement that resulted in several meetings with the North Korean leader.

The two countries remain at loggerheads over the North's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

Such a scenario "won't come easily again", Kim Yo Jong said, adding that the North would consider pulling out of a key inter-Korean military agreement aimed at reducing tensions along their shared border and would review dissolving a number of organizations aimed at cooperation with Seoul.

"They say that the drill involves no actual maneuvers with its scale and contents drastically "reduced.' Perhaps, they are expecting "flexible judgment" and 'understanding" from us, but it is, indeed, ridiculous, impudent, and stupid", Kim Yo Jong said harshly in the statement.

"The Kim regime's rhetoric leaves more room for diplomacy than if it had welcomed Blinken and Austin with a long-range missile test", said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.