North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his nation is ready to mobilize its nuclear deterrent and oppose any U.S. military battle, and for the first time criticized South Korea’s new president, saying Seoul was on the verge of war.

According to the official KCNA news agency, Kim made the statements during a speech marking the 69th anniversary of the July 27 Korean War armistice, which left the two Koreas officially still at war.

Since the 1950-53 conflict, the North has faced nuclear threats, necessitating a “urgent historical task” of beefing up its self-defense, according to Kim.

“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.

For the first time, Kim singled out South Korea’s new conservative President Yoon Suk-yeol, accusing him of endangering the North’s security and right to self-defense.

Yoon’s office voiced profound sadness over Kim’s “menacing” words, stating that South Korea is capable of reacting “strongly and effectively” to any provocations at any moment.

“We once again urge North Korea to take the path of dialogue to achieve substantive denuclearisation and peace,” Yoon’s spokesperson Kang In-sun said at a press conference.

Kim’s statement came after authorities in Seoul and Washington reported Pyongyang had finalized preparations for its first nuclear test since 2017.

South Korea’s unification minister in charge of inter-Korean relations stated on Tuesday that a test around the armistice anniversary was “possibility” while a military official claimed there were no immediate evidence of it.

If North Korea conducts the test, it would face harsher penalties, including measures aimed at its hacking capabilities, South Korea’s foreign minister warned on Wednesday. 

Kim said in his address that Washington continues to engage in “dangerous, illegal hostile acts” against the North and strives to justify its actions by “demonising” the nation.

The North has long accused the US of having double standards when it comes to military exercises and of adopting a hostile strategy against Pyongyang, claiming that it is impeding the resumption of negotiations aimed at eliminating the country’s nuclear and missile programs in exchange for 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 stated.

“That is driving bilateral relations to the point where it is difficult to turn back, into a state of conflict.”

Source: Reuters

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