PYONGYANG – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country was “ready to mobilize its nuclear deterrent in a future military confrontation with the United States and South Korea,” state media said on Thursday.
Washington and Seoul have repeatedly warned that Pyongyang is preparing to carry out its seventh nuclear test – a move the United States says will prompt a “swift and forceful” response.
In Kim’s recent speech marking the armistice that ended the fighting in the Korean War – known in the North as ‘Victory Day’ – he said the country’s armed forces were “perfectly prepared” for any crisis.
“Our country’s nuclear war deterrent is also ready to mobilize its absolute power in accordance with its mission with fidelity, precision and speed,” Kim said in a speech on Wednesday, according to Korea’s official Pyongyang News Agency.
In a speech to war veterans marking the 69th anniversary of the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, Kim stressed the country’s “total readiness” to “handle any military confrontation with the United States.”
His latest threats come as South Korea and the United States continue joint military exercises that have always infuriated the North as Pyongyang – officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) – sees them as rehearsals for an invasion.
This week, for the first time since 2019, the U.S. military conducted live-fire exercises using its advanced Apache helicopters stationed in the South.
Asked about Kim’s comments, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said they were “not categorically different from what we have heard from the DPRK regime over the past few months and years”.
“Nor will the DPRK be surprised to hear the same message from us, and it’s our commitment to the defense of the ROK and Japan…let’s hold on,” Price told reporters in Washington.
THREATS TO SOUTH
Kim also criticized the new warmongering leader of the South, officially known as the Republic of Korea.
President Yoon Suk-yeol took office in May and has vowed to take a tougher stance on Pyongyang – which includes a plan to mobilize a pre-emptive strike capability.
“Talking about military action against our nation, which has the absolute weapons they fear the most, is absurd and a very dangerous self-destructive action,” Kim said of the Yoon government, which he called “gangsters “.
“Such a dangerous attempt will be immediately punished by our mighty force, and Yoon Suk Yeol’s government and his army will be wiped out.”
The North has conducted a record campaign of weapons testing against sanctions this year, including launching a full-range ICBM for the first time since 2017.
Nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington have stalled since a February 2019 summit between Kim and then-US President Donald Trump over lifting sanctions and what the North would be willing to give up in return.
The Kim regime has since rejected repeated offers from Washington and Seoul to resume talks, saying the United States must first abandon its “hostile” policies.
The impoverished city of Pyongyang has long struggled to feed its people, and its economy has been hit by pandemic-related border closures and sanctions related to its nuclear programs.
The country was also battling a massive “fever” outbreak after confirming its first cases of Covid-19 in May.
“Kim’s rhetoric constructs external threats to justify his military and economically struggling regime,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.
“North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs violate international law, but Kim is trying to portray his destabilizing buildup as a righteous attempt at self-defense.”
- Editor / Pyongyang News Agency / AFP