Kim threatens to use nuclear weapons amid tensions with US and South Korea – Associated Press

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has warned of his willingness to use his nuclear weapons in potential military conflicts with the United States and South Korea, state media said Thursday, as he unleashed fiery rhetoric against rivals he says are paying. The Korean Peninsula is on the brink of war.

Kim’s speech to veterans on the 69th anniversary of the end of the 1950-53 Korean War was clearly aimed at strengthening the impoverished country’s internal unity amid the economic difficulties associated with the pandemic. While Kim has increasingly threatened his rivals with nuclear weapons, he is unlikely to first use them against the superior militaries of the United States and its allies, observers say.

“Our armed forces are fully prepared to respond to any crisis, and our country’s nuclear war deterrent is also ready to mobilize its sheer force faithfully, quickly and in accordance with its mission,” Kim said in Wednesday’s speech. Central News Agency.

He accused the United States of “demonizing” North Korea to justify its hostile policies. Kim said the regular US-South Korea military exercises allegedly targeting North Korea highlight US “double standards” and “gangster-like” aspects as they classify North Korea’s routine military activities – an apparent reference to its missile tests – as provocations or threats. .

Kim also claimed that the new South Korean government headed by Yoon Seok Yeol is led by “confrontational madmen” and “gangsters” who have gone further than the previous conservative governments in South Korea. Since taking office in May, Yoon’s government has moved to strengthen Seoul’s military alliance with the United States and enhance its ability to neutralize North Korean nuclear threats, including the ability to preemptive strike.

“Talking about military action against our nation, which has the ultimate weapon that they fear most, is an unreasonable and extremely dangerous act of suicide,” Kim said. “Our powerful force will immediately punish such a dangerous attempt and Yun Seok Yeol’s government and army will be eliminated.”

South Korea expressed its “deep regret” over Kim’s threat and said it was ready to deal with any provocation by North Korea “in a strong and effective manner.”

In a statement read by President Kang In-sun’s spokesman, Yeon’s Presidential National Security Office said South Korea will protect its national security and the safety of its citizens on the basis of a strong alliance with the United States. She urged North Korea to return to talks to take steps toward denuclearization.

Earlier Thursday, South Korea’s Defense Ministry reiterated its previous stance that it is strengthening its military capacity and joint defense posture with the United States to counter the escalating North Korean nuclear threats.

In April, Kim said North Korea could preemptively use nuclear weapons if threatened, saying it would “never be confined to the sole mission of war deterrence.” Kim’s military has also tested missiles capable of launching nuclear missiles that put the US mainland and South Korea in close proximity. US and South Korean officials have said repeatedly in the past few months that North Korea is ready to conduct its first nuclear test in five years.

Kim is seeking greater public support as his country’s economy has been hit by the pandemic’s border closures, US-led sanctions and his mismanagement. In May, North Korea also acknowledged its first outbreak of COVID-19, although the scale of illness and death is widely disputed in a country that lacks modern medical capabilities. to deal with it.

“Kim’s rhetoric amplifies external threats to justify his militarily focused and economically struggling regime,” said Leif Eric Easley, a professor at Eha University in Seoul. “North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs violate international law, but Kim is trying to portray the destabilizing buildup of weapons as a valid self-defense effort.”

Experts say North Korea will likely ramp up its threats against the United States and South Korea as allies prepare to expand 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 bolster the stalled US-led diplomacy aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear program in exchange for economic and political benefits.

During Wednesday’s speech, Kim said his government had recently set tasks to improve its military capacity faster to respond to military pressure campaigns by its enemies, indicating that he intends to move forward with an expected nuclear test.

But Cheong Seong-Chang at South Korea’s private Sejong Institute said North Korea likely won’t conduct its nuclear test before China, its main ally and biggest aid donor, holds a Communist Party conference in the fall. He said China was concerned that a North Korean nuclear test might give the United States 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 is moving to beat the COVID-19 outbreak amid a drop in fever cases, but experts say it’s unclear if the country can lift its strict restrictions soon because it could face a viral resurgence later this year. Pictures by state media showed, during Wednesday’s event, that Kim, the veterans and others were not wearing masks. On Thursday, North Korea reported 11 cases of fever, a massive drop from a peak of 400,000 cases per day in May.

North Korea has rejected US and South Korean offers for medical relief supplies. She also said she will not return to talks with the United States unless it first abandons its hostile policies toward North Korea, an apparent reference to US-led sanctions and military exercises between the United States and South Korea.

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