North Korea’s Kim tells army to ‘annihilate’ South Korea, US conflict initiated

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told his top military officers to use maximum force against South Korea and the United States if they initiate a military confrontation, state media reported Monday.

Seoul and Washington have ramped up defense cooperation in the face of a record-breaking series of weapons tests by Pyongyang over the past year.

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At a meeting with North Korea’s major commanding officers in Pyongyang on New Year’s Eve, Kim said his military should “annihilate” the enemy if provoked, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

“If the enemy opt for military confrontation and provocation against the DPRK, our army should deal a deadly blow to thoroughly annihilate them by mobilizing all the toughest means and potentialities without moment’s hesitation,” Kim said.

Kim’s comments echo his threats made during year-end party meetings of a nuclear attack on Seoul and orders for a military arsenal build-up to prepare for a war that he said could “break out any time” on the peninsula.

During the meetings to set the policy agenda for 2024, the North Korean leader accused the United States of posing “various forms of military threat”.

He also called on armed forces to “suppress the whole territory of south Korea mobilizing all physical means... including nuclear forces” in case of a “great event”, referring to an armed conflict.

Kim told the meeting he would no longer seek reconciliation and reunification with South Korea, noting the “uncontrollable crisis” that he said was triggered by Seoul and Washington.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol vowed Monday to keep Pyongyang’s military provocations at bay with a joint extended deterrence system with Washington, scheduled for the first half of 2024.

The deterrence system will “fundamentally deter any North Korean nuclear and missile threat”, Yoon said in his New Year’s Day address.

In 2023, Pyongyang successfully launched a reconnaissance satellite, enshrined its status as a nuclear power in its constitution and test-fired the most advanced intercontinental ballistic missile in its arsenal.

Pyongyang declared itself an “irreversible” nuclear power in 2022 and has repeatedly said it will never give up its nuclear weapons program, which the regime views as essential for its survival.

The United Nations Security Council has adopted many resolutions calling on North Korea to halt its nuclear and ballistic missile programs since Pyongyang first conducted a nuclear test in 2006.

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