No time for illusionsIn a speech on Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un mentioned the possibility of using nuclear weapons. In a military parade to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of anti-Japanese guerilla forces in North Korea, Kim threatened the use of nuclear arms “if any outside forces attempt to infringe on our fundamental national interests,” as North Korea “cannot stick with their only mission of preventing war.” He also underscored the importance of “being thoroughly prepared for the mobilization of nuclear weapons beyond the level of maintaining deterrence.”
Kim’s remarks translate into an admission that North Korea can use nuclear arms under the pretext of defending its national interests. No doubt the brazen blackmail's target is South Korea. Earlier, Kim Yo-jong, his sister and vice director of the Workers’ Party, warned, “If we are forced into a military confrontation with South Korea, our nuclear forces cannot but carry out their missions,” adding “any dangerous move will face a miserable fate of annihilation.”
After the North Korean leader directly mentioned the use of nuclear arms against South Korea, Pyongyang will certainly ratchet up the level of the warnings — and more often. If Seoul surrenders to the threat, it can be held hostage to North Korea. Our government must fully brace for any contingency. In that sense, President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s transition committee showed an appropriate reaction Tuesday by vowing to “consolidate the Korea-U.S. alliance” and rapidly acquire capabilities to defend against missile attacks from North Korea based on the Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD), the Kill Chain pre-emptive strike system and the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation (KMPR) plan. The transition committee also pledged to develop a super-gap technology and weapons system to effectively counter the North Korean threat.
What Kim said clearly shows the strategic double standards the North applies to the South. In a personal letter he sent to President Moon Jae-in last week, Kim expressed an intention to “improve inter-Korean relations if the South and North seek to take a path toward peace.” But exactly five days later, he threatened to use nuclear weapons against South Korea. His double-edged words reveal the signature strategy of the recalcitrant state across the border.
After deceiving the pacifist Moon administration with conciliatory gestures over the last five years by feigning the will to denuclearize, North Korea has threatened to strike South Korea with nuclear arms. The Yoon administration must devise realistic policies to cope with the North. The time has come to end the Moon administration’s illusions about North Korea.