July 29, 2022
SEOUL – The North Korean leader warned that the country will “annihilate” South Korea’s conventional forces should they seek preemptive military action and confrontation against North Korea, lambasting the Yoon Suk-yeol government’s defense strategy and military buildup.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Wednesday delivered a speech at an outdoor event in front of the Monument to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War in Pyongyang to mark “Victory Day” in the Korean War, the Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, reported the following day.
Pyongyang celebrates the anniversary of the 1953 armistice agreement that ended the 1950-53 Korean War as the “Day of Victory in the Great Fatherland Liberation War.”
Kim’s first direct warning to Yoon
Kim sent his first warning messages to the Yoon Suk-yeol government during the symbolic and politically-charged event.
“Our republic government would like to take this opportunity to give a grave warning to the conservative South Korean government and warmongers who are taking the lead in implementing the US hostile policy against the DPRK by drowning in abnormal greed and overconfidence in power and showing madness,” Kim said in his speech.
Kim launched blistering criticism of the Yoon government’s two-pronged defense strategy to reinforce core and independent military capabilities and the South Korea-US combined defense posture to address North Korea’s escalating missile and nuclear threats.
Kim denounced the Yoon government for “bluffing its willingness to launch a preemptive strike” to neutralize his country’s war deterrent, reacting vehemently against the Yoon government’s initiative to establish “peace through power.”
“There is no way to do that if the South Korean government and military thugs come up with ways to seek military confrontation and believe that they can preemptively incapacitate and smash part of our military power with specific military ways and means,” Kim warned.
“Such dangerous attempts will be immediately punished with powerful force and the Yoon Suk-yeol government and its military will be annihilated.”
South Korea’s Defense Ministry aims to expeditiously complete the establishment of the indigenous three-axis missile defense system — which consists of the Kill Chain, the Korea Air and Missile Defense and the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation. The Yoon government has particularly emphasized securing Kill Chain preemptive strike capabilities since campaigning.
“North Korea intends to attach significance to the warning messages to South Korea by launching harsh criticism not through state media channels but the leader’s speech after having kept silent since the inauguration of the new government,” Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said
“In a nutshell, the speech sends a direct warning to the Yoon Suk-yeol government and the military and shows off North Korea’s defense capabilities by making reference to a nuclear weapons state, nuclear war deterrent, absolute weaponry among others.”
Kim’s animosity toward Yoon
In his speech, Kim also expressed his antagonism toward the incumbent South Korean president, referring to him without his title.
“We remember the ludicrous statements that Yoon Seok-yeol made before and after he took office on various occasions and his disgusting behaviors. … We can no longer just sit by and watch disgusting behaviors and bravado of Yoon Suk-yeol and military thugs,” the North Korean leader said.
“If (South Korea) continues the current act of heightening military tensions while tackling our right to self-defense and threatening our safety, it will pay a corresponding price.”
Kim warned that Yoon should refrain from confronting North Korea so as not to suffer disgrace as a South Korean president which put the country in the “greatest danger.”
In response to Kim’s speech, the South Korean presidential office said, “The National Security Office expressed deep regret that chairman Kim Jong-un made threatening remarks against the government, directly referring to the name of the president” on Thursday afternoon.
“The government has maintained readiness posture at all times to respond strongly and effectively to any provocation by North Korea, and we will protect national security and public safety based on the ironclad South Korea-US alliance,” the office said, urging North Korea to “come out on the path of dialogue for substantial denuclearization and peace building.”
Lim Eul-chul, a professor of North Korean studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul, said the “speech shows Chairman Kim’s distrust and animosity toward President Yoon Suk-yeol, given that he sent a direct warning to Yoon without referring to him by his title.”
The speech also suggests direction of hardline policy toward South Korea. Pyongyang previously said it had decided the principles and direction of South Korea policy at the party plenum in June, labeling inter-Korean relations as a “struggle against the enemy.”
Criticism of US ‘double standard’
The North Korean leader also reiterated his hardline view of the US, reaffirming that his country is “fully ready to deal with any kind of military confrontation with the US.”
“Our armed forces are thoroughly prepared to respond to any crisis, and our country’s nuclear war deterrent is also fully ready to mobilize its absolute strength faithfully, accurately and swiftly to its mission.”
In his speech, Kim focused on justifying his plans to go forward with a military and nuclear buildup to confront the US.
Kim denounced the “US’ double standard which misleadingly labels North Korean armed forces’ daily acts as ‘provocations and threats’ while holding large-scale combined military exercises that gravely threaten the country’s safety.”
“The double standard is literally thug-like behavior and pushes the DPRK-US relationship to the critical point where it is hard to be restored and the state of a violent collision,” Kim said.
“If the US continues to tarnish the image of our country and gravely infringe upon our safety and fundamental interests, it will inevitably put up with greater anxiety and crisis.”
More to come but China is key
Seoul-based experts warned that the North Korean government, military and party will devise follow-up measures to the leader’s speech and take military actions such as ballistic missile launches and a nuclear test.
In particular, experts viewed that North Korea could exploit the upcoming South Korea-US combined military exercises in August and September as an opportunity to raise tensions on the peninsula.
“The messages are consistent with the principle of strength-for-strength and head-on confrontation announced at the party plenum in June. But there is a high chance that North Korea puts the warning messages to the US and South Korea into action,” Lim said.
“The situation on the Korean Peninsula will worsen for a considerable period of time as South Korea and US have not come up with clear solutions except for taking a hardline approach to North Korea.”
In his speech, Kim also underscored that “enemies’ desperate schemes to reinforce military buildup and dangerous military plans point to the need to push for faster change in the country’s military capabilities.”
“In light of Kim Jong-un’s reference to faster changes in military capabilities, North Korea would seek to further incapacitate the US extended deterrence and seek overwhelming military dominance over South Korea by conducting a seventh nuclear test and launching an intercontinental ballistic missile,” said Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute.
But Cheong pointed out that the schedule for the 20th Party Congress in China could be the key consideration in deciding the timing of a nuclear test.
Lim forecast that North Korea would continue to take a “meticulous and cool-headed approach” in taking military actions in light of the country’s internal socioeconomic situation and its relations with China.