North Korea should be ready to use nuclear weapons “at any time” in the face of a growing threat from its enemies, leader Kim Jong-un has decreed in a further escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Kim’s warning, issued via state-controlled media on Friday morning, appeared to be an attempt to put pressure on the international community after the UN security council on Wednesday adopted a raft of new sanctions against the regime in response to its recent nuclear test and rocket launch.
Kim, who was supervising the test-firing of newly developed multiple rocket launchers, said North Korea’s situation had become so perilous that it should have the option of launching a “pre-emptive attack” – a departure from previous claims that the North’s nuclear capability was purely a deterrent.
In an apparent threat to neighbouring South Korea, Kim said the new rocket launchers should be “promptly deployed” along with other new weaponry.
He said the regime’s enemies – notably the US – were threatening North Korea’s survival, the state-controlled KCNA news agency reported.
“At an extreme time when the Americans … are urging war and disaster on other countries and people, the only way to defend our sovereignty and right to live is to bolster our nuclear capability,” KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
“Under the extreme situation that the US imperialist is misusing its military influence and is pressuring other countries and people to start war and catastrophe, the only way for our people to protect sovereignty and rights to live is to strengthen the quality and quantity of nuclear power and realise the balance of power.
“We must always be ready to fire our nuclear warheads at any time.”
People in the capital, Pyongyang, said the new round of UN sanctions would not affect the country’s progress.
“No kind of sanctions will ever work on us, because we’ve lived under US sanctions for more than half a century,” Pyongyang resident Song Hyo-il told the Associated Press.
“And in the future we’re going to build a powerful and prosperous country here, relying on our own development.”
The US defence department urged the North to “refrain from provocative actions that aggravate tensions, and instead focus on fulfilling its international obligations and commitments”.
“We are aware of the reports and are closely monitoring the situation on the Korean peninsula in coordination with our regional allies,” said Commander Bill Urban, a Pentagon spokesman.
Read more: The Guardian