Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, ordered the building of a military arsenal to be ready for a conflict that could “break out at any time” on the peninsula and renewed his threats to attack Seoul with nuclear weapons to close out the year, according to state media on Sunday.
After five days of year-end party meetings when his country made decisions about its military, political, and economic policies for 2024, Kim delivered a long address in which he criticised the United States.
According to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), plans for future military development in the upcoming year were announced during the meeting. These included launching three more spy satellites, developing unmanned drones and electronic warfare capabilities, and bolstering nuclear and missile forces.
This year, Pyongyang tested the most sophisticated intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in its arsenal, successfully launched a reconnaissance satellite, and formally proclaimed itself a nuclear power in its constitution.
At the meeting that ended Saturday, Kim accused the United States of posing “various types of military threat” and ordered his armed forces to maintain “overwhelming war response capability”, according to KCNA.
It is a “fait accompli that a war can break out at any time on the Korean peninsula due to reckless moves by the enemies to invade us”, Kim said.
In an effort to deter Pyongyang, Washington earlier this month deployed a nuclear-powered submarine in the South Korean port city of Busan, and flew its long-range bombers in drills with Seoul and Tokyo.
The North has previously described the deployment of Washington’s strategic weapons — such as B-52 bombers — in joint drills on the Korean peninsula as the “intentional nuclear war provocative moves”.
“We must respond quickly to a possible nuclear crisis and continue to accelerate preparations to pacify the entire territory of South Korea by mobilising all physical means and forces, including nuclear force, in case of emergency,” Kim said.
At the meeting, Kim said he would no longer seek reconciliation and reunification with South Korea, noting the “persisting uncontrollable crisis situation” which he said was triggered by Seoul and Washington.
Inter-Korean relations have deteriorated to a low point this year, with Pyongyang’s spy satellite launch prompting Seoul to partially suspend a 2018 military agreement aimed at defusing tensions.
“I believe that it is a mistake that we should no longer make to consider the people who declare us as the ‘main enemy’… as a counterpart for reconciliation and unification,” KCNA cited Kim as saying.
Kim ordered the drawing-up of measures for reorganising departments handling cross-border affairs, to “fundamentally shift the direction”
Leif Easley, a professor of international relations at Ewha University in Seoul, said the emphasis on North Korea’s “significant military capabilities” was likely aimed at hiding the country’s poor economic achievements this year.
“Much of what state-controlled media publishes is recycled propaganda,” he said, adding: “Pyongyang’s bellicose rhetoric suggests its military moves are not only about deterrence but also domestic politics and international coercion.”
Pyongyang, which sees its nuclear programme as vital to its survival, last year declared itself to be a “irreversible” nuclear power and has since stated on several occasions that it will never give up.
Since North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, the UN Security Council has passed numerous resolutions urging it to end its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.