Kim Jong-un has issued a chilling new threat, vowing to “exponentially increase” North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.
The rogue leader made the disturbing comment in response to perceived threats from rivals including the US and South Korea, according to Pyongyang’s state media, and came hot on the heels of two alarming tests of a multiple rocket launcher (MRL) over the weekend.
It was claimed the weapon was capable of targeting the entire South Korea, which Kim described as his nation’s “undoubted enemy” during a New Year’s Eve speech.
Kim issued the threat in a furious statement which singled out South Korea as the country’s “undoubted enemy” and claimed his neighbour was “hell-bent on an imprudent and dangerous arms buildup.”
He added that America, South Korea’s primary ally, had upped pressure on his regime to the “maximum” level during 2022 with the regular presence of military assets on the Korean Peninsula, and promised to up the North’s nuclear capabilities in response.
In 2023, he said North Korea would increase production of nuclear warheads and build a new, more powerful intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a sign of growing tensions between the North and South and its allies, after a year which saw a record number of missiles fired.
One of those reportedly has the potential to hit the US mainland.
“The currently established situation calls for our country doubling down our efforts to strengthen our military power overwhelmingly to safeguard our sovereignty, safety and basic national interest to cope with the dangerous military moves by the US and other hostile forces that target us,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported Kim as saying.
Kim said the ICBM would offer a “quick counterstroke capability”, and that the freshly tested MRL was “a key offensive weapon of our military forces” that “will carry out its own combat mission to overwhelm the enemy”.
At 600mm, the North’s MRL system is double that of most others around the globe, and Kim warned that an extra 30 would be deployed to the military at the same time.
As expected, South Korea’s Defence Ministry hit back at the North’s “provocative language that seriously harms peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula”, and ordered it “immediately stop” developing nuclear weapons.
“[The] Kim Jong-un regime will come to an end if North Korea attempts to use nuclear weapons,” it said.
North Korea’s growing aggression
The latest claims come after missiles were fired over at least 38 days in 2022, after several years of relative calm in the region.
In November, a barrage of launches led to evacuation warnings and widespread panic in neighbouring nations Japan and South Korea, which saw the US and the South issue a scathing joint statement vowing that a nuclear attack would mark the end for Kim Jong-un.
“Any nuclear attack against the United States or its Allies and partners, including the use of non-strategic nuclear weapons, is unacceptable and will result in the end of the Kim regime,” US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin and South Korea’s Lee Jong-sup said at the time.
The situation has deteriorated so significantly – and so quickly – that Sejong Institute researcher Cheong Seong-chang recently told AFP it was “now a dangerous and unstable situation that could lead to armed conflict”.
In late October, Kim Jong-dae, a former adviser in South Korea’s Defence Ministry, also told the BBC Kim was clearly growing bolder and that the world couldn’t afford to ignore the threat.
“We have never seen this audacity and aggression before, it is different. It is the North acting like a nuclear state,” he said.
It comes after a string of recent terrifying statements from Kim, including that his country’s evolution into a nuclear power was “irreversible” and that North Korea was “completely ready to hit and destroy targets at any time from any location”.