A photo released in May by North Korean state media, which said it showed Kim Jong-un presiding over a meeting of the Central Military Commission.Korean Central News Agency, via Reuters
By Choe Sang-Hun
June 4, 2020, 1:32 a.m. ET
The North compared the United States to a setting sun, taking notice of the unrest over George Floyd’s killing. It also threatened to scrap deals with South Korea.
SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea lashed out at both Seoul and Washington on Thursday, threatening to scrap key parts of agreements with South Korea and comparing the United States to a setting sun being eclipsed by China.
The attack on the United States comes as President Trump is in an increasingly bitter standoff with China, blaming it for the spread of the coronavirus and threatening action over its weakening of Hong Kong’s autonomy. And it follows Mr. Trump’s sputtering efforts to court the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and get North Korea to give up its nuclear arms.
In a statement carried by state media, North Korea also highlighted the unrest that has been consuming the United States over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.
“Demonstrators enraged by the extreme racists throng even to the White House,” said the statement published by Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s main state-run newspaper. “This is the reality in the U.S. today. American liberalism and democracy put the cap of leftist on the demonstrators and threaten to unleash even dogs for suppression.”
The statement, from an arm of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, excoriated Mike Pompeo, the American secretary of state, for criticizing the Communist Party of China during a televised interview on Sunday. In the interview, Mr. Pompeo accused the Chinese party of being “intent upon the destruction of Western ideas, Western democracies, Western values.”
Mr. Pompeo also said that the United States could work with its allies around the world, including South Korea, to “ensure that the next century remains a Western one modeled on the freedoms that we have here in the United States.”
The statement carried by Rodong Sinmun said Mr. Pompeo’s remarks showed that “he is nervous over the plight of the U.S. on the downhill side” in relation to an ascendant China.
North Korea also fumed over another development: the recent release of anti-North Korean leaflets by defectors from the North, who used balloons to send them across the inter-Korean border. North Korea has long bristled at this propaganda tactic , as well as radio broadcasts from defectors in the South that depict Mr. Kim as a cretinous dictator toying with nuclear weapons.
In another statement carried Thursday by Rodong Sinmun, Kim Yo-jong, Mr. Kim’s sister and his de facto spokeswoman, assailed the propaganda campaign. “What matters is that those human scum hardly worth their value as human beings had the temerity of faulting our supreme leadership and citing ‘nuclear issue,’” Ms. Kim said.
If South Korea does not stop the leaflets, Ms. Kim said, North Korea could scrap an agreement between Mr. Kim and South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, to operate a joint liaison office and cease all hostile military acts along the border.
Mr. Kim and Mr. Moon agreed to ease tensions and improve relations during two summit meetings in 2018. Setting up the liaison office and ending cross-border propaganda were part of those agreements. But anti-North activists in the South, mainly defectors, have resumed their leaflet campaign in recent months.
Inter-Korean relations have chilled rapidly since Mr. Kim’s second summit meeting with President Trump, held in Vietnam in February of last year, ended without an agreement on how to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons program or when to ease United Nations sanctions imposed on the country. North Korea’s economic isolation has deepened since the global coronavirus outbreak.
Reacting to Kim Yo-jong’s statement, Yoh Sang-key, a spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry, criticized the defectors for raising tensions by releasing the leaflets. He also said that most of the leaflets had ended up south of the border, creating a trash problem.
Mr. Yoh indicated that South Korea was working on legislation to curtail the leaflet campaign.
Park Sang-hak, head of Fighters for Free North Korea, a defectors’ organization that has sent leaflets across the border, said the group would continue to do so.
“We are no longer slaves of North Korea, we are citizens of a free South Korea with an obligation to speak the truth,” Mr. Park said. He called the Unification Ministry a “spokesman for North Korea.”
Ms. Kim’s statement about the propaganda reflects “Pyongyang’s desire to drive a wedge between the South Korean government and civil society,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.