Flanked by missiles, North Korea’s Kim says US, South Korea threaten peace

Alongside North Korea’s larger missiles, leader Kim Jong Un said his country’s arms development was needed in the face of hostile US policies and military build-up in South Korea, state media said on Tuesday. .

Pyongyang was only increasing its army to defend itself and not to start a war, Kim said on Monday at a defense exhibit, the state-run North Korean news agency KCNA reported.

Kim made his remarks alongside a variety of weapons, including the country’s intercontinental ballistic missiles, ruling party Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed. Among them was the Hwasong-16, North Korea’s largest ICBM, unveiled in a military parade in October 2020 but not yet tested.

“We are not discussing war with anyone, but rather to prevent the war itself and to literally increase the deterrence of war for the protection of national sovereignty,” Kim said.

State television footage showed a smiling Kim clapping as shirtless soldiers used their hands to smash bricks placed on the chests of colleagues and others broke chains wrapped around their bodies in a show of force.

Kim also praised the jets leaving colorful trails during an air show, while walking around the missiles on display.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said South Korean and US intelligence agencies were analyzing the equipment on display.

A spokesperson for the US State Department reaffirmed that the US objective is the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but that Washington “has no hostile intentions” towards North Korea and is ready to confront it without preconditions for “serious and sustained diplomacy”.

“The United States has a vital interest in dissuading the DPRK, defending itself against its provocations or its use of force, and limiting the scope of its most dangerous weapons programs, and above all in ensuring the safety of the people. America and our allies, ”added the spokesperson. , using the initials of North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Pyongyang has said it is not interested in talks as long as Washington maintains policies such as sanctions and military activity in South Korea. Washington’s claims that it does not have hostile feelings towards North Korea were hard to believe in the face of its “bad judgments and actions,” Kim said.

The two Koreas are engaged in an accelerated arms race, with both sides testing short-range ballistic missiles and other increasingly advanced hardware.

South Korea recently tested its first submarine-launched ballistic missile, plans to build aircraft carriers, and has purchased US-made F-35 stealth fighters. its main nuclear reactor, used to produce fuel for nuclear bombs.

South Korean national security adviser Suh Hoon met his US counterpart, Jake Sullivan, on Tuesday in Washington to discuss North Korea.

Suh told reporters on Monday that he plans to discuss South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s proposal to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War and a possible easing of sanctions against North Korea. , Yonhap News Agency reported. A White House statement on the meeting said Sullivan stressed the need for North Korea “to refrain from escalating actions” and reaffirmed its support for inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation.

A senior US administration official said Washington had made specific proposals for talks to North Korea but had not received a response from Pyongyang.

“We remain ready to meet to discuss all issues,” he said.

The two Koreas last week restored their hotlines that North Korea cut months ago, with Pyongyang urging Seoul to step up efforts to improve relations after criticizing what it called double standards. in weapons development.

Kim said Seoul’s “unrestrained and dangerous” efforts to strengthen its military “are destroying the military balance on the Korean Peninsula and increasing military instability and danger.”

“Under the absurd pretext of suppressing our threats, South Korea has openly expressed its desire to gain an advantage over us in terms of military might on several occasions,” he added.