North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has warned that he is willing to use his nuclear weapons in potential military conflicts with the United States and South Korea, state media reported Thursday, in an emphatic speech against his rivals that he says are putting to the Korean peninsula on the brink of war.
Kim’s speech to veterans on the 69th anniversary of the end of the Korean War, which ran from 1950 to 1953, was ostensibly aimed at promoting internal unity in the impoverished nation, which is experiencing economic difficulties related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the president has intensified his nuclear threats against Washington and Seoul, it is unlikely that he will use them first given the superiority of both militaries, according to experts.
“Our armed forces are fully prepared to respond to any crisis, and Our country’s nuclear war deterrents also stand ready to mobilize their absolute power with diligence, accuracy and speed, consistent with their mission,” Kim said in his speech on Wednesday, according to the Korean Central News Agency.
Also, accused Washington of “demonizing” North Korea to justify its hostile policies and said the US and South Korean military exercises show the “double standards” and “gangster” aspects of the US government, as it characterizes routine North Korean military activities — an apparent reference to its missile tests — as provocations or threats.
Kim also said South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol’s new government is run by “confrontational maniacs” and “gangsters” who have gone further than the nation’s previous conservative executives. 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 speak of military action against our nation, which possesses weapons of absolute power, which they fear the most, is ridiculous and is a very dangerous suicidal action,” Kim said. “Such a dangerous attempt will be immediately punished by our mighty force, and Yoon Suk Yeol’s government and his military will be annihilated.”
Moon Hong-sik, deputy spokesman for the South Korean Defense Ministry, on Thursday reiterated Seoul’s previous stance, which has been bolstering its military capacity and joint defense postures with Washington to deal with escalating nuclear threats from the North. The chief of the country’s General Staff said that the army maintains a firm preparation.
In April, Kim said his country could use nuclear weapons preemptively if threatened, saying “they will never limit themselves to the sole mission of war deterrence.” Kim’s forces have also tested nuclear-capable missiles that could reach both the US mainland and South Korea. In recent months, officials from both nations have repeated that Pyongyang is ready to carry out its first nuclear test in five years.
Kim seeks greater public support as the North Korean economy suffers the consequences of border closures stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, international sanctions led by Washington and his own management. In May, the North recognized its first outbreak of COVID-19, although the magnitude of the infections and deaths is highly disputed in a country whose medical capabilities to deal with it are questioned by the West.
“Kim’s rhetoric inflates external threats to justify his military-centric, financially troubled regime,” said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul. “North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are a violation of international law, but Kim is trying to portray his destabilizing weapons buildup as a righteous effort in self-defense.”
According to some experts, the North could intensify its threats against the United States and South Korea at a time when both allies prepare for extensive summer military exercises, which the North Korean government considers an invasion rehearsal.
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