North Korea’s Kim Jong Un vows to build ‘invincible’ military

17
Seoul

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reviewed powerful missiles developed to launch nuclear strikes on the US mainland, as he vowed to build an “invincible” military to cope with what he called persistent US hostility, state media reported on Tuesday.

In an apparent continued effort to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul, Kim also used his speech at a rare exhibition of weapons systems on Monday to stress that his military might isn’t targeted at South Korea and that there shouldn’t be another war pitting Korean people against each other.

“The US has frequently signalled it’s not hostile to our state, but there is no action-based evidence to make us believe that they are not hostile,” Kim said on Monday, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. “The US is continuing to create tensions in the region with its wrong judgments and actions.”

Calling the United States a “source” of instability in the Korean Peninsula, Kim said his country’s most important objective is possessing an “invincible military capability” that no one can dare challenge.

The exhibition, which KCNA says was meant to mark the 76th birthday of the ruling Workers’ Party on Sunday, was the first of its kind since Kim took power in late 2011, according to Seoul officials.

North Korean photos showed Kim, clad in a dark suit, walking on a red carpet lined with big missiles mounted on trucks, passing by a multiple rocket launch system and watching jets flying in a formation.

The exhibition featured an array of newly developed weapons, including intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) that North Korea has already test-launched or displayed during military parades in recent years, experts say.

Yang Wook, a military expert who teaches at South Korea’s Hannam University, said the weapons in the photos include what appears to be a new ICBM that North Korea disclosed during a military parade last year but hasn’t test-fired, Yang said.

That missile mounted on an 11-axel launch vehicle during the parade is considered to be the North’s biggest-yet ICBM.

Other weapons on display were another ICBM that North Korea tested in 2017; ballistic missiles that can be fired from submarines or a train; solid-fueled, short-range missiles; and a developmental hypersonic missile that had its first test flight last month, said Lee Choon Geun, a missile expert at South Korea’s Science and Technology Policy Institute.

“Basically, North Korea wants to send this message: ‘We’ll continue to develop new weapons and arm ourselves with nuclear force, so don’t slap sanctions with these as we can’t agree on the double standards,’” Yang said.

Seoul’s Defence Ministry said South Korean and US intelligence authorities were analysing the North Korean weapons displayed but didn’t elaborate.

In recent weeks North Korea has sent mixed signals toward its rivals, as it resumed its missile tests after a six-month hiatus but offered conditional talks with South Korea.

During his exhibition speech, Kim accused South Korea of hypocrisy because it criticises North Korea’s weapons development as provocations while spending heavily to increase its own military capabilities. But he still said his military doesn’t target South Korea.

“I say once again that South Korea isn’t the one that our military forces have to fight against,” Kim said. “Surely, we aren’t strengthening our defence capability because of South Korea. We shouldn’t repeat a horrible history of compatriots using force against each other.” —AP

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