North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned late Wednesday that his country is “fully prepared” for any military conflict with the United States, state media said Thursday.
The warning is Pyongyang’s latest threat amid speculation it will soon conduct its seventh nuclear test.
Kim, in a speech marking the anniversary of the end of the Korean War, also warned that South Korea’s government would be annihilated if it made any “dangerous attempt,” according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, a conservative who took office in May, has repeatedly spoken of the possibility of preemptive strikes, including strikes against senior North Korean leadership, if South Korea detects signs of an imminent attack.
Such action would be “immediately punished with strong force,” Kim said, adding “the Yoon Suk Yeol regime and his military will be annihilated."
"If the South Korean regime and its military gangsters are thinking of taking us on militarily and think they can neutralize or destroy part of our military power preemptively based on particular military means or methods, they are mistaken," Kim said.
In his speech, Kim repeatedly boasted of his country’s nuclear weapons and indicated he was prepared to use them if necessary. North Korea, he said, was “fully prepared” for any military confrontation with the United States.
North Korea has tested an unprecedented number of missiles this year. Pyongyang has also apparently finished preparations for another nuclear test, according to U.S. and South Korean officials.
In response, South Korea has expanded its country’s decades-old military alliance with the United States. The two countries have also embraced more explicit demonstrations of military power in an attempt to deter the nuclear-armed North.
Next month the United States and South Korea will resume large-scale field military exercises that had been suspended for years, as the two countries pursued negotiations with North Korea.
Although the two allies say the exercises are defensive in nature, North Korea sees the drills as preparations to invade and often uses them as occasions to issue threats or conduct other provocations.
In his address Wednesday, Kim blasted the “double standard” and “thuggish behavior” of the United States. While he described North Korea’s military moves as routine, he said the U.S.-South Korea drills “seriously threaten our national security.”
At a press conference Wednesday in Seoul, South Korean Foreign Affairs Minister Park Jin called North Korea’s nuclear and missile development the main causes of tension on the Korean Peninsula.
Park also warned North Korea against conducting another nuclear test, saying such a move would likely lead to more international sanctions against the North.
“North Korea is in a situation where it needs to think carefully,” he said.
On Tuesday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said a North Korean nuclear test “would carry tremendous costs,” without specifying what those costs would be.
It will likely be much tougher for the United Nations Security Council to respond with additional sanctions against North Korea. Russia and China, both veto-wielding members of the Security Council, have in recent months called for North Korea sanctions to be relaxed, not expanded.