Kim Jong Un says North Korea must be ready for US-led invasion plots
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for his military to be constantly ready for combat to thwart rivals’ plots to invade his country, state media said on Tuesday.
It came as the US, South Korea and Japan held a trilateral naval exercise to deal with North Korea’s evolving nuclear threats.
The US and South Korean militaries have been separately holding summer bilateral exercises since last week.
North Korea views such US-involved training as an invasion rehearsal, though Washington and its partners maintain their drills are defensive.
Mr Kim said in a speech marking the country’s Navy Day on Monday that the waters off the Korean Peninsula have been made unstable “with the danger of a nuclear war” because of US-led hostilities, according to the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
He accused the US of carrying out “more frantic” naval drills with its allies and deploying strategic assets in waters around the Korean Peninsula.
He also cited a recent US-South Korean-Japanese summit where an agreement to boost defence co-operation was reached to counter North Korea’s nuclear programme.
Mr Kim called President Joe Biden, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida “the gang bosses” of the three countries.
“The prevailing situation requires our navy to put all its efforts into rounding off the war readiness to maintain the constant combat alertness and get prepared to break the enemy’s will for war in contingency,” he said.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry expressed deep regret over Mr Kim’s use of “very rude language” to slander the South Korean, US and Japanese leaders.
Spokesman Lim Soosuk told reporters that North Korea must immediately stop acts that raise tensions with “reckless threats and provocation”.
Tuesday’s South Korean-US-Japanese drills in international waters off South Korea’s southern Jeju island involved naval destroyers from the three countries.
The training was aimed at mastering procedures for detecting, tracking and sharing information about incoming North Korean missiles, South Korea’s navy said in a statement.
The US and South Korean militaries began the 11-day bilateral drills on August 21. The annual Ulchi Freedom Shield training is a computer-simulated command post exercise, but field exercises were included this year.
North Korea typically responds to US-South Korean military drills with its own missile tests.
Last Thursday, its second attempt to launch a spy satellite into space failed. The day the drills began, KCNA said Mr Kim had observed the test-firings of strategic cruise missiles.
Since the beginning of 2022, North Korea has carried out more than 100 weapons tests, many of them involving nuclear-capable missiles designed to strike the US, South Korea and Japan.
Many experts say North Korea ultimately wants to use its boosted military capabilities to wrest greater concessions from the US.
The North’s testing spree has forced the US and South Korea to expand their drills, resume trilateral training involving Japan, and enhance “regular visibility” of US strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula.
In July, the US deployed a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea for the first time in four decades.
Earlier this month, the leaders of the US, South Korea and Japan held their first-ever stand-alone trilateral summit at Camp David.
During the meeting, they announced that they intend to put into operation by the end of the year the sharing of real-time missile warning data on North Korea and hold annual trilateral exercises.
Mr Kim has been pushing hard to expand his nuclear arsenal and introduce a slew of sophisticated weapons systems.
During his Navy Day speech, he said that military units of each service will be given new weaponry in line with the government’s decision to expand the operation of tactical nuclear weapons.
He said the navy will become “a component of the state nuclear deterrence carrying out the strategic duty”.
This suggests North Korea will deploy new nuclear-capable missiles to its navy and other military services.
State media photos showed Mr Kim visiting the navy headquarters with his daughter, reportedly named Ju Ae and aged about 10.
It was her first public appearance since mid-May.
Mr Kim has taken her to a series of public events since November, sparking speculation about her political status.
South Korean officials say Mr Kim has not anointed her as his heir. However, they believe he is attempting to use her public appearances as a way to show his people that one of his children will one day inherit his power in what would be the country’s third hereditary power transfer.
The best videos delivered daily
Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox