Kim Jong-un says North Korea ready to mobilise nuclear forces

By Melissa Zhu

BBC News

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a ceremony to mark the 69th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, in Pyongyang, North Korea, in this photo released July 27, 2022 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA via REUTERSImage source, Reuters

Image caption,

Mr Kim says boosting North Korea’s defence is an “urgent historical task”

North Korea is ready to mobilise its nuclear war deterrent, its leader Kim Jong-un has claimed.

Speaking at a Korean War anniversary event, Mr Kim added that the country was “fully ready for any military confrontation” with the US, state news agency KCNA reported.

The comments come amid concern that North Korea could be preparing a seventh nuclear test.

The US warned last month that Pyongyang could conduct such a test at any time.

North Korea’s most recent nuclear test was in 2017. However, tensions have been rising on the Korean peninsula.

The US special representative to North Korea Sung Kim says North Korea has tested an unprecedented number of missiles this year – 31 compared to 25 during the whole of its last record-breaking year, 2019.

In June South Korea responded by launching eight missiles of its own.

Although the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, North Korea claims it as a victory against the US. The annual “Victory Day” celebrations are marked by military parades, fireworks and dancing.

In his speech to mark the event, Mr Kim said nuclear threats from the US required North Korea to achieve the “urgent historical task” of beefing up its self-defence.

The US had misrepresented North Korea’s regular military exercises as provocations, he added.

Mr Kim also appeared to address reports that South Korea is moving to revive a plan to counter the North Korean nuclear threat by mounting precautionary strikes in the event of an imminent attack.

The so-called “Kill Chain” strategy, first elaborated a decade ago, calls for pre-emptive strikes against Pyongyang’s missiles and possibly its senior leadership.

Some analysts have warned it carries its own risks and could fuel an arms race.

At the Victory Day celebration Mr Kim said that South Korean president Yoon Suk-yeol’s government and military would be “obliterated” if he carried out pre-emptive strikes.

Is North Korea ‘on the brink of war’?

Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, BBC News

Kim Jong-Un’s warning that the Korean peninsula is “on the brink of war” sounds extremely scary. But North Korean rhetoric is often fiery, especially on significant anniversaries.

What it indicates is just how angry the North Korean regime is about South Korea’s new President Yoon Suk-yeol.

Since taking office in May, President Yoon has laid out a new, more aggressive defence policy. It would allow South Korean forces to pre-emptively strike the North, if Seoul believes it is under imminent threat of a nuclear attack from Pyongyang.

This so-called “Kill Chain” strategy would allow South Korea to launch pre-emptive ballistic missiles and air strikes on North Korean targets, including taking out the North Korean command and control structures. In other words, attempting to kill Kim Jong-Un himself.

Pyongyang is also quite unhappy with the lack of engagement from Washington since President Biden replaced Donald Trump.

All of this could suggest we are headed towards some sort of deliberate escalation by the North.

Everyone now expects that Pyongyang will carry out a seventh underground nuclear test. Preparations have been underway at the Punggye-ri test site since March.

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