North Korean leader Kim Jong-un threatened to launch nuclear weapons against the United States and South Korea in the event of a conflict with the two countries that he considers his most bitter foes, state media said Thursday.
Mr. Kim unleashed the barrage of fiery rhetoric as he praised the aged veterans of the 1950-1953 Korean War in a Wednesday speech clearly intended to invoke national unity as his country contends with the twin challenges of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and crippling economic sanctions.
The North Korean leader said he is “fully prepared” to resort to nuclear warfare in future conflicts with the United States and South Korea.
He accused Washington of aggravating tensions on the Korean Peninsula, saying that the “arrogant nature” of the U.S. has remained unchanged ever since hostilities first erupted there. In a heated speech that also lashed out at South Korea’s current government, Mr. Kim said they are prepared to confront the U.S. “on the strength of ideology and arms.”
“Our state’s nuclear war deterrent is also fully ready to demonstrate its absolute power accurately and promptly true to its mission,” he said, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
“The United States, which did our nation the gravest harm in its modern history, still perseveres with dangerous hostile acts against our republic,” Mr. Kim said.
Mr. Kim’s speech comes amid reports from South Korea’s central bank that Pyongyang’s economy shrank for a second straight year in 2021, a victim of international sanctions and self-imposed COVID-19 pandemic restrictions that hampered trade with neighboring China.