Kim Jong Un's Sister Blasts U.S. Drills as North Korea Vows to Bolster Strike Capabilities

Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korea's authoritarian ruler Kim Jong Un, has denounced South Korean defense officials as "treacherous" for taking part in a "dangerous" joint military exercise with the United States.

In a statement on Tuesday, the North vowed to increase its nuclear strike capabilities in response.

Such military exercises, which typically take place twice a year, have long been a source of tension between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington. North Korea regards them as war rehearsals while South Korea and U.S. have repeatedly said they are only for defensive purposes.

"I take this opportunity to express my strong regret for the treacherous treatment of the South Korean authorities," she said in a statement released by KCNA, North Korea's official news agency.

"We will put more spur to further increasing the deterrent of absolute capacity to cope with the ever-growing military threats from the U.S.," Kim Yo Jong added in the statement.

In a separate press release issued on KCNA, North Korea vowed "to strengthen pre-emptive strike capabilities."

"We will not jump to conclusions and keep an eye on North Korea's attitude while preparing for all possible options," South Korea's Unification Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

"Nothing's changed about our need for readiness on the Korean peninsula and our desire to work in lock-step with our ROK allies on [a] training regimen that improves that readiness and keeps that readiness strong," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in a Monday press conference, a day before Kim Yo Jong's statement.

Newsweek has contacted the White House for further comment.

Kim Yo Jong's remarks come despite there being a slight warming of relations between North and South Korea since late July, after a string of personal letters sent from Kim Jong Un and the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in.

Previously, the two counties had not been communicating, during a period of growing tensions that started last June, or nearly 14 months ago.

There have been growing calls from South Korean officials to postpone the regular military drills with the U.S. to allow dialogue between the South and the North to continue, while Moon has been looking to improve ties with the North.

"The atmosphere (here) is that postponing the military exercise might be inevitable despite some potential internal resistance," a high-profile source from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea told Yonhap News Agency on August 4.

Kim Yo Jong warned on August 1 that the military exercises could "seriously undermine" efforts to restore trust between the Koreas.

North Korea has been going through its domestic challenges, with state media reporting over the weekend that Kim Jong Un had called on the military to carry out relief work in areas recently hit by heavy rain. More than 1,000 homes were damaged and about 5,000 people evacuated after the ensuing flooding.

There has also been concerns around an economic crisis and food shortages. On August 3, It was revealed that North Korea was releasing its emergency military rice reserves as food shortages and a drought continue to affect the country.

In the 1990s, the country went through a famine as a result of economic mismanagement and loss of support from the Soviet Union, which was exacerbated by a series of floods and droughts.

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North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un and sister Kim Yo Jong attend the Inter-Korean Summit at the Peace House in April 2018. Kim Yo Jong has called the recent South Korea-U.S. military drill "dangerous." Korea Summit Press Pool/Getty