By Sangmi Cha
SEOUL (Reuters) - The sister of North Korea's leader has warned South Korea to stop defectors from sending leaflets into the demilitarized zone separating the countries, saying it may cancel a recent bilateral military agreement if the activity persists.
Kim Yo Jong, who serves unofficially as Kim Jong Un's chief of staff, issued the warning in a statement carried by state news agency KCNA on Thursday.
She was referring to thousands of "anti-DPRK leaflets" recently dumped along the North's side of the heavily fortified DMZ titled "Defectors from the North".
DPRK, or the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, is the North’s official name.
"If such an act of evil intention committed before our eyes is left to take its own course under the pretext of 'freedom of individuals' and 'freedom of expression', the south Korean authorities must face the worst phase shortly," the KCNA statement said.
Responding to the North Korean statement, a spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, called for a halt to the leaflet operations.
Sending leaflets increases tensions with North Korea, poses environmental risks and endangers private property, ministry spokesman Yoh Sang-key said at a regular briefing.
"The government has taken measures to stop leafletting several times," he said.
Kim Yo Jong warned of the possible scrapping of the inter-Korean military agreement that promised to eliminate practical threats of war as a result of the clandestine leafletting.
The military pact reached in 2018 was "hardly of any value", she said.
She also warned the North would withdraw from the Kaesong industrial project and shut down the joint liaison office in the North's border city unless Seoul stopped such actions.
Kim Yo Jong has been the most visible presence around her brother in the past two years. She serves formally as a vice director of the ruling Workers' Party's powerful Central Committee.
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Additional reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Tom Brown and Gerry Doyle)