Kim Jong Un threatens nuclear forces to ‘crush any hostile forces’

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has warned he is ready to use his nuclear weapons in potential military conflicts with the United States and South Korea, blaming Pyongyang’s rivals for what he says is bringing the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war.

“Our armed forces are fully prepared to respond to any crisis, and our country’s nuclear deterrent is also ready to mobilize its absolute power in a submissive, accurate and fast manner in accordance with its mission,” Kim said on Wednesday, speaking to war veterans on the 69th. . Anniversary of the end of the Korean War 1950-53

Kim’s speech was aimed at strengthening internal unity in an impoverished country amid economic hardships related to the pandemic.

Although Kim is increasingly threatening his rivals with nuclear weapons, it is unlikely that he will be the first to use them against the superior military forces of the US and its allies, observers say.

Supreme Leader Kim also used the opportunity to accuse the US of “demonizing” North Korea to justify its hostile policies.

He said the U.S. and South Korean military exercises targeting North Korea show the “double standards” and “thuggish” aspects of the Western country, as they stigmatize Pyongyang’s normal military activities – an obvious reference to its missile tests – as provocations or threats.

US-South Korean military alliance “suicide act”

Kim also stated that President Yoon Seok-yeol’s new South Korean government is led by “confrontation maniacs” and “thugs” who have gone further than South Korea’s previous conservative governments.

Since taking office in May, Yoon’s government has taken steps to strengthen Seoul’s military alliance with the United States and bolster its ability to neutralize North Korea’s nuclear threats, including a pre-emptive strike capability.

“To talk about military action against our people, who have the absolute weapon that they fear the most, is ridiculous and very dangerous, suicidal,” Kim said.

“Such a dangerous attempt will be immediately punished by our powerful force, and Yoon Seok Yeol’s government and army will be destroyed.”

Moon Hong-sik, deputy spokesman for South Korea’s defense ministry, reiterated on Thursday the earlier position that Seoul is building up its military capability and joint defense posture with the US to deal with the growing nuclear threats from Pyongyang. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the military remains on standby.

In April, Kim said that North Korea could proactively use nuclear weapons if threatened, saying they would “never be limited to the sole mission of deterring war.”

Kim’s military has also carried out test firings of nuclear-tipped missiles that keep the US mainland and South Korea within range. US and South Korean officials have repeatedly said over the past few months that North Korea is ready to conduct its first nuclear test in five years.

Sanctions, mismanagement and covid

Kim is seeking more public support as his country’s economy has been hit by pandemic-related border closures, U.S.-imposed sanctions and his own mismanagement.

In May, North Korea also acknowledged its first outbreak of COVID-19, though the extent of morbidity and mortality is widely disputed in a country that lacks modern medical capabilities to deal with it.

“Kim’s rhetoric inflates external threats to justify his war-focused and economically struggling regime,” said Leif-Erik Isley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

“North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are against international law, but Kim Jong-un is trying to portray his destabilizing arms buildup as a righteous attempt at self-defense.”

Experts say North Korea is likely to step up its threats against the United States and South Korea as allies prepare for an expansion of summer exercises.

In recent years, the South Korean and US militaries have canceled or scaled back some of their regular exercises due to concerns about COVID-19 and to support stalled US-led diplomacy aimed at persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear program in exchange for economic and political benefits.

During Wednesday’s speech, Kim said his government had recently set targets to increase its military capabilities more quickly to respond to military pressure campaigns from its enemies, suggesting he was intent on conducting pending nuclear tests.

But Cheong Son-Chang of South Korea’s private Sejong Institute said North Korea was unlikely to conduct its nuclear tests before China — its main ally and biggest benefactor — holds a Communist Party convention in the fall.

He said China was concerned that a North Korean nuclear test could give the US an excuse to strengthen its security partnerships with its allies, which it could use to curb Chinese influence in the region.

North Korea recently said it was on track to overcome the COVID-19 outbreak amid a sharp decline in fever cases. However, experts say it’s unclear if the country will be able to lift the strict restrictions anytime soon because it could face a new virus later this year.

During Wednesday’s event, Kim, veterans and others were not wearing masks, state media photos show. On Thursday, North Korea reported 11 cases of the fever, a significant drop from May’s peak of about 400,000 people a day.

North Korea has rejected offers from the US and South Korea to supply emergency supplies. He also said he would not return to negotiations with Washington unless he first abandoned his hostile North policy, explicitly citing U.S. and South Korean sanctions and military exercises.