Kim Jong Un promises that North Korea will “exponentially” increase its nuclear arsenal
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pledged on Sunday to “exponentially” increase the number of nuclear weapons in his country and further advance its antagonistic intercontinental ballistic missile program.
Kim delivered the message after a meeting of his ruling party over the weekend, declaring South Korea the country’s “undisputed enemy” and reinforcing its aggressive posture amid a list of recent missile launches that will likely give the tone for the year. North Korea followed up those statements with a short-range ballistic missile test on New Year’s Day that Kim said could hit anywhere in South Korea.
The efforts are widely seen as an attempt by Kim to force the international community to negotiate with North Korea and provide legitimacy for his government. The country is still under severe economic and diplomatic sanctions and has been deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol responded to the threat over the weekend with a strong statement, saying Seoul would punish any provocation aimed at preventing a war on the peninsula. Yoon has taken a much tougher line on the North than his predecessor, Moon Jae-in, calling the northern neighbor of the South a “main enemy”.
“Our military should certainly punish any enemy provocation with a firm determination not to avoid going to war,” Yoon said, according to Yonhap News. “I ask you to bear in mind that our troops’ firm mental readiness posture and realistic training can only guarantee solid security.”
North Korea fired about 70 ballistic missiles in 2022, Yonhap reported, the most in a single year. Speculation has grown that the country could carry out a nuclear test in the coming months, which would be its first in years and a guaranteed increase in international tensions.
“As we greet the New Year, we urge North Korea to embark on the path of peace on the Korean Peninsula and common prosperity for Koreans rather than sticking to a wrong path,” the South Korean military said in a statement on Monday.
The Huffington Gt