North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reviewed a rare exhibition of weapons systems and vowed to build an “invincible” military as he accused the United States of creating tensions and not taking action to prove it has no hostile intent toward the North, state media reported on Tuesday.
In an apparent continued effort to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul, Mr Kim also said his drive to build up his military was not targeted at South Korea and that there should not be another war pitting Korean people against each other.
Mr Kim gave the speech on Monday at the Defence Development Exhibition “Self-Defence-2021”, an event meant to mark the previous day’s 76th birthday of the ruling Workers’ Party. South Korean media reported it was the first such event held by North Korea.
“The US has frequently signalled it’s not hostile to our state, but there is no action-based evidence to make us believe that they are not hostile,” Mr Kim said, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. “The US is continuing to create tensions in the region with its wrong judgments and actions.”
Calling the United States a “source” of instability on the Korean Peninsula, Mr Kim said his country’s most important objective was possessing an “invincible military capability” that no one can dare challenge.
He accused South Korea of hypocrisy because it criticises North Korea’s weapons development as provocations while spending heavily to increase its own military capabilities, including purchasing advanced US stealth fighters. But he still said his military did not target South Korea.
“I say once again that South Korea isn’t the one that our military forces have to fight against,” Mr Kim said. “Surely, we aren’t strengthening our defence capability because of South Korea. We shouldn’t repeat a horrible history of compatriots using force against each other.”
North Korea has sent mixed signals toward its rivals in recent weeks.
Last month, North Korea performed its first missile tests in six months, including nuclear-capable weapons that could reach targets in South Korea and Japan, including US military bases there. But North Korea also said it’s open to talks with South Korea if conditions are met.
Some experts say North Korea is attempting to use South Korea’s desire to improve ties to pressure it to convince the United States to relax punishing economic sanctions on the North and make other concessions.
North Korea has long sought improved ties with the United States because it wants sanctions relief and a better security environment to focus on reviving its moribund economy. The high-stakes diplomacy between the countries fell apart in early 2019 after the Americans rejected North Korea’s calls for extensive sanctions relief in return for partial disarmament steps.
The United States has recently repeatedly offered talks with North Korea “anywhere and at any time” without preconditions. Mr Kim has called such an offer “cunning” attempt to conceal US hostility against North Korea, as he wants Washington to ease the sanctions or suspend its regular military drills with Seoul first before the talks can resume.