North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has said his country’s weapons development is necessary in the face of ‘hostile’ policies from the United States and a military buildup in South Korea that is destabilising the peninsula, state media reported.
Pyongyang was only increasing its military in self-defence and not to start a war, Kim said in a speech at the Defence Development Exhibition, according to a report on Tuesday by state news agency KCNA.
“The United States has been frequently signalling that it’s not hostile to our country, but there has been no behavioural ground to believe that it is not,” Kim was quoted as saying by KCNA.
“For our descendants we need to be strong. We need to first be strong. The military threats our country is facing is different from what we saw 10, five or three years ago,” he said, adding that tensions on the Korean peninsula will not be easily resolved “due to the US”.
Yang Uk, an expert in military strategic studies at Hannam University in Seoul, told Al Jazeera that Kim’s message on alleged US “hostility” was nothing if not “constant”.
Kim made the remarks standing in front of a variety of weapons, including a Hwasong-16 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), photos in the ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun showed.
The Hwasong-16 is North Korea’s largest ICBM and was unveiled at a military parade in October 2020, but not yet test fired.
“We are not discussing war with anyone, but rather to prevent war itself and to literally increase war deterrence for the protection of national sovereignty,” he added.
The two Koreas have been in an accelerating arms race, with both sides testing increasingly advanced short-range ballistic missiles and other hardware.
South Korea recently test fired its first submarine-launched ballistic missile, and plans to build major new weapons include aircraft carriers. It has also bought American-made F-35 stealth fighters.
North Korea has pushed ahead with its missile programme, and analysts say it has begun a major expansion of its main nuclear reactor, used to produce fuel for nuclear bombs.
The United States has said it is willing to hold diplomatic talks at any time with North Korea, Pyongyang has said it is not interested as long as Washington maintains policies such as sanctions and military activities in South Korea.
“The United States’ assertion that it holds no hostile feelings towards North Korea are hard to believe in the face of its continued “wrong judgements and actions,” Kim said, without elaborating.
Last week, Pyongyang and Seoul reconnected their cross-border hotline in a sign of thawing ties, with only a few months left in office for the South’s pro-engagement President Moon Jae-in.
But Kim accused Seoul of “reckless ambition” and a “two-faced, illogical” attitude.
Their “unrestricted and dangerous attempts to strengthen military power are destroying the military balance on the Korean peninsula and increasing military instability and danger,” he added.
“Under the absurd pretext of suppressing our threats, South Korea has openly expressed its desire to gain an edge over us in military power on various occasions.”