Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, warned the United States Tuesday not to “cause a stink” to “sleep in peace,” a rhetorical warning shot issued as Antony Blinken for he arrived in Japan first trip abroad as Secretary of State.
In Tokyo, Blinken said the US would continue to work with its regional allies to denuclearize North Korea and counter China’s growing “coercion and aggression” in Asia, according to a joint US-Japan statement.
Kim Yo Jong said North Korea “took this opportunity to warn the new US administration that is trying to shed the powder smell in our country,” an obvious reference to gunpowder.
“If it wants to sleep in peace for the next four years, it should better not cause a smell the first step,” she added to the state news agency KCNA.
The statement is North Korea’s first public comment to the Biden government.
Blinken and a team that includes Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will next travel to South Korea. The Tokyo and Seoul meetings are part of the White House’s efforts to reassure affected allies in Asia after four years of sometimes difficult deals with former President Donald Trump.
“Recognizing that North Korea’s arsenal poses a threat to international peace and stability, ministers reiterated their commitment to the full denuclearization of North Korea,” the joint statement said, which adopted a similar stance by the US during the Trump era reflected.
However, President Joe Biden’s team took a less outward-looking approach than its predecessors and carried out a comprehensive review of North Korea policies. Senior current and former government officials told NBC News that Biden’s national security team decided to soften the public tone of the country after they concluded that provoking Pyongyang might counter US goals.
“We have no direct comment or response to the comments from North Korea,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday.
Blinken’s trip will also reaffirm U.S. alliances in Asia amid an increasingly assertive Beijing.
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On Friday, Biden attended a virtual summit with leaders of Japan, Australia and India known as the “Quad” group, highlighting Asia’s priority on its foreign policy agenda.
Blinken will travel to Alaska later this week, where he and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan will have their first face-to-face meetings with colleagues from China.
US relations with North Korea rose and fell under Trump. In 2018, Trump considered that he and Kim Jong Un “fell in love” after the correspondence. He also tweeted that Americans “can sleep well at night” because they know North Korea is ready to give up its nuclear weapons. It has not.
In 2019, Trump became the first sitting US President to step on North Korean soil. He held three high-profile summits with Kim, but relations deteriorated when the nuclear-armed state cut talks.
Days before Trump stepped down in January, Kim called America his country’s “archenemy” while threatening to “bring her to her knees,” state media reported.
Reuters contributed to this report.
Janis Mackey Frayer and Arata Yamamoto contributed.