Kim Jong-un threatens to use nuclear weapons amid tensions with the US and South Korea

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SEOUL, South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned that he is ready to use his nuclear weapons in potential military conflicts with the United States and South Korea, state media reported Thursday, as he unleashed fiery rhetoric against rivals he says are pushing to the Korean Peninsula. on the brink of war.

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Kim’s ress to war veterans on the 69th anniversary of the end of the 1950-53 Korean War was apparently intended to bolster internal unity in the impoverished country, which is suffering economic hardships related to the pandemic. North Korea is likely to step up its threats against the United States and South Korea as the allies prepare to expand summer drills that North Korea sees as training for an invasion, some 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 absolute power obediently, accurately and swiftly in accordance with its mission,” Kim said in a speech on Wednesday, according to the official Korean Central Bureau of Investigation. Central Press Agency.

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He accused the United States of “demonizing” North Korea to justify its hostile policies. He said the US-South Korean military drills show the US’s “double standard” and “gangster” aspects, as it labels North Korea’s routine military activities – an apparent reference to its missile tests – as provocations or threats.

Kim also called new South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol a “confrontational maniac” who went further than past South Korean leaders, saying Yoon’s conservative government was run by “gangsters.” Since taking office in May, Yoon’s government has moved to strengthen Seoul’s military alliance with the United States and strengthen its ability to neutralize North Korea’s nuclear threats, including a pre-emptive strike capability.

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“Talking about military action against our nation, which possesses the absolute weapons they fear the most, is absurd and a very dangerous suicidal action,” Kim said. “Such a dangerous attempt will be immediately punished by our mighty force, and Yoon Suk Yeol’s government and his army will be destroyed.

Kim has increasingly threatened his rivals this year with his advancing nuclear program, which some foreign experts say is an attempt to extract external concessions and achieve greater domestic unity.

In April, Kim said North Korea could preemptively use nuclear weapons if threatened, saying they would “never be limited to a single war deterrence mission.” Kim’s military has also tested nuclear-capable missiles that put both the US mainland and South Korea within range.

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

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

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North Korea has rejected offers from the US and South Korea to resume talks, saying its rivals must first abandon their hostile policies towards the North in an apparent reference to US-led sanctions and US-South Korean military exercises.

South Korea’s defense ministry said last week that this summer’s military exercises with the United States will include field training for the first time since 2018 alongside existing computer-simulated tabletop exercises.

In recent years, the South Korean and U.S. militaries have canceled or scaled back some of their regular drills due to concerns about COVID-19 and in support of the now stalled U.S.-led diplomacy aimed at persuading North Korea to give up its nuclear program in exchange. economic and political benefits.

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