In a speech to mark the armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War, known as ‘Victory Day’ in North Korea, Kim Jong Un said the threat posed by the United States required Pyongyang to build up its defence.
“Our armed forces are thoroughly prepared to respond to any crisis, and our nation’s nuclear war deterrence is also fully ready to mobilise its absolute strength faithfully, accurately and promptly to its mission,” he said, according to state media.
North Korea is likely to face stronger sanctions, including measures aimed at curbing its cyberattack capabilities if it goes ahead with the test, South Korea’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.
In his address, Kim said Washington continues “dangerous, illegal hostile acts” with South Korea against his country some 70 years after the war, and seeks to justify its behaviour by “demonising” it.
Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said the Victory Day speech could be seen as an attempt to “bolster national pride” in the face of South Korea’s successful post-armistice development.
“Kim’s rhetoric inflates external threats to justify his militarily focused and economically struggling regime,” he said in an email. “North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are in violation of international law, but Kim tries to depict his destabilizing arms buildup as a righteous effort at self-defense.”
North Korea has long accused the US of double standards over military activities and pursuing what it says is a “hostile policy” towards Pyongyang.
Denuclearisation talks collapsed in 2019 over sanctions relief.
“The duplex act of the United States, which is misleading all the routine actions of our armed forces as ‘provocation’ and ‘threat’ while holding large-scale joint military exercises that seriously threaten our security, is literally a robbery,” Kim said.
“That is driving bilateral relations to the point where it is difficult to turn back, into a state of conflict.”
Kim also condemned the new South Korean administration under President Yoon Suk-yeol, saying any attempts to preemptively incapacitate his country would be met with a stern response and “annihilation”.
“I once again make it clear that North Korea is fully ready for any military confrontation with the United States,” Kim said.
North Korea has carried out a record number of weapons tests in 2022.
In January, it said it had tested a hypersonic missile and later launched a banned intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as well as missiles that it said could carry tactical nuclear weapons.