North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for his military to be continuously ready for combat to thwart rivals’ plots to invade his country, state media said on Tuesday.
It came as the U.S., South Korea and Japan held a trilateral naval exercise to deal with North Korea‘s developing nuclear threats. The U.S. and South Korean militaries have been separately holding summer bilateral exercises since last week.
North Korea views such U.S.-involved training as an invasion rehearsal, though Washington and its partners maintain their drills are defensive.
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 U.S.-led hostilities, according to the state-sponsored Korean Central News Agency.
He accused the U.S. of carrying out ‘more frantic’ naval drills with its allies and positioning strategic resources in waters around the Korean Peninsula.
He also mentioned a recent U.S.-South Korean-Japanese summit where an agreement to elevate defense cooperation was reached to counter North Korea’s nuclear program.
‘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 voiced deep lament over 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 anxieties with ‘reckless threats and provocation’.
In Washington, Cho Hyundong, South Korea’s ambassador to the U.S., said South Korean, U.S. and Japanese pains to enhance relations would not be dissuaded by Kim’s rhetoric.
‘The continued provocation and continued violation of multiple critical UN security resolutions by North Korea will only strengthen the trilateral security cooperation,’ Cho said.
He made the comments on Tuesday in an appearance at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies with Tomita Koji, Japan’s ambassador to the U.S., and Kurt Campbell, a top adviser to Biden on Indo-Pacific affairs.
Tuesday’s South Korean-U.S.-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 U.S. 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 U.S.-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 Kim had observed the test-firings of strategic cruise missiles.
Many experts say North Korea ultimately wants to use its boosted military capabilities to wrest greater concessions from the U.S.
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 U.S. deployed a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea for the first time in four decades.
Earlier this month, the leaders of the U.S., 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.
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 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.
Kim has taken her to a series of public events since November, sparking speculation about her political status.
South Korean officials say 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.
North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un has visited the country’s naval command center, along with his daughter Kim Ju Ae.
The visit came in advance of North Korea’s Navy Day celebrations, and was reported by state media outlet KCNA. pic.twitter.com/agL6Ndf5ky
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