The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has called South Korea's president "simple" and told him to "shut his mouth" after an offer of aid.
Kim Yo-jong on Friday lashed out at the “foolish” proposal of economic help in exchange for nuclear disarmament from Yoon Suk-yeol earlier this week to mark his first 100 days in office.
“It would have been more favourable for his image to shut his mouth,” Ms Kim said in a statement published by state news agency KCNA, Pyongyang’s first official response to the offer.
Mr Yoon is “really simple and still childish to believe North Korea would swap its weapons programme for trade cooperation," she added. “No one barters its destiny for corn cake."
Her comments add to a series of fiery statements in recent months that have cemented her influential role at the heart of the hardline Kim regime.
Ms Kim also ridiculed South Korean and US capacities to monitor the North’s missile activity, confirming that two suspected cruise missiles fired this week were launched from the city of Anju, near the western coast.
South Korea reported the launches but has not given a public analysis of the missiles’ capabilities.
"If the data and flight trajectory [of the missiles] are known, [the South] will be so bewildered and afraid," Ms Kim said.
South Korea's Unification Ministry — which handles inter-Korean affairs — expressed "strong regret" over the comments, calling them disrespectful towards the president and a sign of the North’s desire to continue making 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.
Mr Yoon, who called his economic development plan of food and infrastructure aid “audacious,” also expressed hope for a renewed meaningful dialogue with Pyongyang.
Peace talks between North and South broke down in 2019 and tensions have been steadily rising since.
But he has also pledged to take a firm line to defend the South against Pyongyang’s aggression and has pushed to increase military deterrence capabilities.
South Korea has also resumed long-suspended joint military drills with the United States, including major field exercises due to begin next week.