North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said his country is “ready to mobilize” its nuclear deterrent in the event of any future military clash with the US and South Korea, state media reported on Thursday.
Washington and Seoul have repeatedly warned that Pyongyang is preparing to conduct a seventh nuclear test, a move that the United States warned would elicit a “quick and decisive” response.
In Kim’s final speech marking the truce that ended hostilities in the Korean War, known as “Victory Day” in the North, Kim said the country’s military was “thoroughly prepared” for any crisis.
“The means of deterring nuclear war of our country are also ready to conscientiously, accurately and promptly mobilize their absolute power in accordance with their mission,” Kim This is stated in a speech on Wednesday, according to the official Central News Agency of Korea in Pyongyang.
Speaking to war veterans on the occasion of the 69th anniversary of the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War, Kim Jong-un emphasized the country’s “full readiness” to “handle any military confrontation with the United States.”
His latest threats came as South Korea and the United States launched a escalation of joint military exercises that have always infuriated the North because Pyongyang, officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), sees them as rehearsals for an invasion.
The U.S. military conducted live fire exercises this week for the first time since 2019 using its forward-looking Apache helicopters stationed in the south.
Asked about Kim’s remarks, US State Department spokesman Ned Price said they were “categorically no different from what we’ve heard from the DPRK regime over the past months and past years.”
“North Korea will also not be surprised to hear the same message from us, and it is our commitment to protecting the Republic of Korea and Japan… remains unwavering,” Price told reporters in Washington.
Threats to the south
Kim also lambasted the new hawkish leader of the South, officially known as the Republic of Korea.
President Yoon Suk-yeol took office in May and promised to take a tougher stance on Pyongyang, which includes a plan to mobilize pre-emptive strike capability.
“To talk about military action against our nation, which has the absolute weapon that they fear the most, is ridiculous and very dangerously self-destructive,” Kim said of the Yun administration, which he called a group of “thugs.”
“Such a dangerous attempt will be immediately punished by our powerful force, and Yoon Seok Yeol’s government and army will be destroyed.”
The North has conducted a record number of sanctions-violating weapons tests this year, including a full-range launch of an ICBM for the first time since 2017.
Nuclear talks between Pyongyang and Washington stalled after a February 2019 summit between Kim and then-U.S. President Donald Trump collapsed with sanctions easing and the North willing to back out in return.
Since then, the Kim regime has rejected repeated offers from Washington and Seoul to resume talks, saying the United States must first abandon its “hostile” policies.
An impoverished Pyongyang has long struggled to feed its people, and its economy has been hit by border closures due to the pandemic, as well as sanctions over its nuclear programs.
The country is also grappling with a massive outbreak of “fever” after the first cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in May.
“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.
“Nuclear and rocket programs violate international law, but Kim is trying to portray his destabilizing arms buildup as a righteous attempt at self-defense.”