President Kim Jong-un of the ever so volatile (unpredictable too) North Korea has upped the ante at a critical phase in international relations. Predictably, he has targeted the United States of America and South Korea. Thursday’s rhetoric was suitably fiery; he has warned that his “rivals” are pushing the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war even though on his part, he has done little or nothing to lessen the tension. His presentation marked the 69th anniversary of the Korean war (1950-53) and more basically it was intended to boost unity in the impoverished nation amidst the economic blight in the aftermath of the pandemic. While Kim has quite frequently threatened his rivals with nuclear weapons, it is rather unlikely that he will use them first against the decidedly superior militaries of the United States and its allies.
“Our armies are prepared to respond to any crisis and our country’s nuclear war deterrent is ready to mobilize its absolute power dutifully, exactly and swiftly in accordance with its mission,” Kim said. And he was suitably provocative when he accused the United States of “demonizing” North Korea to justify its hostile policies. He claimed that the regular US-South Korea military drills, that target the North, highlight US “double standard” and what he called “gangster-like” aspects because it brands North Korea’s routine military operations ~ an unstated reference to its missile tests ~ as provocations or threats. He has severely debunked the present South Korean government of President Yoon Suk Yeol as one that is led by “confrontation maniacs” or “gangsters” who have gone further than previous governments in Seoul.
Ever since it assumed office in May, the Yoon government has strengthened Seoul’s military alliance with the United States. “Such a deliberate attempt will be immediately punished by our powerful strength and the Yoon government will be annihilated”. Strong words indeed, but the fact must remain that Pyongyang’s posturing against Seoul and Washington is thoroughly unprovoked and unilateral for the very simple reason that there has been no provocative action by the United States and South Korea in recent months. The South will safeguard its national security based on a solid alliance with the United States. Seoul has urged Pyongyang to initiate steps towards denuclearization.
It has iterated its geostrategy that it has been “boosting its military capacity and joint defence posture with the United States to cope with the escalating North Korean nuclear threats.” It bears recall that in April, Kim had said that the North could peremptorily use nuclear weapons. Kim’s military has also test-launched various missiles. It is pretty obvious that Kim is seeking greater public support as his country’s economy has been battered by pandemic-related border shutdowns, crippling sanctions imposed by the United States and his own mismanagement. The provocation of nuclear tests has been reinforced by his bluster.