Kim Jong-un orders his nukes to be readied

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Kim Jong-un orders his nukes to be readied

In his first public response to the United Nations Security Council’s toughest sanctions on Pyongyang’s weapons of mass destruction program, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ordered nuclear warheads to be readied for firing “at any moment,” according to the regime’s state media on Friday.

Seoul sees the remarks as a brazen declaration by Pyongyang that it will ignore the warnings of the international community through the United Nations and continue its development of nuclear weapons and missiles.

The North’s official Korean Central News Agency quoted Kim as saying, “The only way to defend the sovereignty of our nation and its right to existence under the present extreme situation is to bolster our nuclear force, both in quality and quantity.”

The young leader made the remarks as he inspected a test of newly developed multiple rocket launchers on Thursday and called for the “need to get nuclear warheads deployed for national defense so as to be fired at any moment.”

Kim was also reported to have called the UN resolution, unanimously adopted by the 15-member Security Council, including veto-wielders China and Russia, “gangster-like.”

He added that “now is the time for us to convert all our military countermeasure methods toward the enemies in a preemptive attack.” The first target of such a preemptive attack would presumably be South Korea.

Analysts don’t know how close North Korea is to having developed a nuclear warhead miniaturized enough to deliver on a long-range missile.

Some experts such as Cho Han-Bum, a senior analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification, claim Pyongyang has the technology to mount a nuclear warhead on its Scud missiles, which have a range of up to 500 kilometers (300 miles), and its Rodong missiles, which have a range of 1,300 kilometers. Kim also criticized President Park Geun-hye by name for the first time, dropping her title and attacking her for being led by the United States and “playing with fire.” He predicted her ruin in the long run, and the North’s official Rodong Sinmun carried articles Friday extensively lambasting Park.

South Korea’s Ministry of Unification expressed “very strong regret” for Kim Jong-un’s “deplorable and obsolete way of thinking” after his criticism of Park and warned that such “depraved remarks can degrade the North Korean leadership.”

“Criticism by name of the president also is actually a provocation,” Jeong Joon-hee, spokesman for the ministry, said in a briefing on Friday. “This can be seen as an act of terror through words.”

He called the North Korean leader’s remarks “considerably belligerent” and not helpful for the development of inter-Korean relations. “Our government is thoroughly prepared for any sort of provocation from North Korea,” he said.

Jeong added that the government is reviewing “various measures” and said South Korea is considering unilateral sanctions on Pyongyang.

Following the adoption of the Security Council resolution, President Park on Thursday referred to the Kim Jong-un regime as a “tyranny,” although she did not mention the North Korean leader by name.

“Our government, as our president said, is trying our best to create an environment in which North Korea realizes that it cannot survive with its nuclear program and that it will have to change itself,” Jeong said.

Pyongyang fired six short-range missiles on Thursday from its east coast, seen in Seoul as a protest of the UN Security Council resolution.

Seoul and Washington will kick off the largest-ever joint annual military drills, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle, on Monday. These two month-long joint war games have been protested by North Korea each year and resulted in an increase in bellicose rhetoric.

SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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