North Korea’s communist dictator Kim Jong-un declared that his country has “no intention of avoiding war” with South Korea on Tuesday during an inspection of a military munitions factory.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), North Korea’s flagship government propaganda outlet, referred to South Korea as the “Republic of Korea,” a change in style that appeared to acknowledge that South Korea is a separate state from the North. For years, KCNA would refer to the country as “south Korea,” a territory under the dominion of a rogue faction that North Korea considered rightfully territory under Pyongyang’s rule.
KCNA’s summary of Kim’s remarks relayed that the dictator declared that “the time has come at last” to recognize South Korean sovereignty in anticipation of the return of active hostilities.
“Saying that the historic time has come at last when we should define as a state most hostile toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea the entity called the Republic of Korea (ROK),” KCNA narrated, “which has pursued a history of vicious confrontation with bloodshot eyes to overthrow our regime … he stressed that our state should recognize this unavoidable and irrevocable reality as it is.”
Kim reportedly added that Pyongyang must “properly settle the historic problem.”
North and South Korea – and its allies, China and America respectively – are technically in a state of war that began in 1950. The Korean War’s active phase ended with an armistice agreement that did not result in a peace treaty or surrender. American troops remain in South Korea to help preserve the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), the border between the Koreas, to this day.
“The ROK scums are our principal enemy,” Kim reportedly said, according to a translation of KCNA’s Korean language reporting by the U.S.-based Radio Free Asia (RFA). “While we will not unilaterally decide on a major upheaval in the Korean peninsula through the overwhelming force of ours, we also have no intention of avoiding war.”
Kim vowed to “completely devastate the ROK” if Seoul considered “the use of force against our nation.”
The South Korean Unification Ministry, which typically handles relations with the North, sternly condemned Kim’s belligerence in a statement on Wednesday as an “old-fashioned tactic” to destabilize South Korean society, according to South Korea’s KBS News.
“It urged Pyongyang to immediately stop its reckless military threats and psychological warfare against Seoul, adding that the latter will respond resolutely to any provocation and consistently pursue normalization of inter-Korean relations based on principles,” KBS added.
In addition to the plain meaning of his remarks, Kim’s presence at what KCNA called “major munitions factories” appeared to be intended as an irritant to South Korea and the free world. The government of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has increasingly accused North Korea of selling a variety of weapons to some of the world’s deadliest nefarious actors. The South’s National Intelligence Service (NIS) revealed evidence on Monday of the jihadist terror organization Hamas using weapons originating from North Korea, potentially including during the atrocities against Israel on October 7. The NIS evidence consisted of photos of a Hamas rocket grenade with Korean writing visible on its fuse. Israeli officials have also displayed seized Hamas weaponry that appeared North Korean.
“North Korea has a history of exporting anti-tank weapons and multi-launch rocket launchers to armed groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, which is based in Lebanon,” an unnamed South Korean lawmaker attending a closed-door NIS briefing in November told the Korea JoongAng Daily at the time.
A group of families of Americans killed and injured during the October 7 terrorist attack announced at the beginning of the year that they are planning to sue North Korea for its role in the atrocities.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has publicly addressed the possibility of a Hamas-style land invasion of South Korea targeting random civilians, threatening to destroy the Kim regime if it attempts such an assault.
“Even if North Korea miscalculates and commits any provocation, including a Hamas-style surprise attack, we will maintain a South Korea-U.S. combined defense posture that can immediately and resolutely punish it,” Yoon told American Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during a meeting in Seoul in November.
In December, Yoon told troops stationed at the DMZ that, “in case of provocations, I ask you to immediately retaliate in response and report it later,” urging them to discard bureaucratic procedures in case of emergency.
The administration of President Joe Biden accused North Korea on Tuesday of selling weapons to Russia used on the battlefield in the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications told reporters that the White House believed Russia used North Korean weapons on two prior occasions before launching “multiple North Korean ballistic missiles into Ukraine” in recent attacks.
Kim personally offered top Russian officials, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, a tour of a North Korean weapons exhibition in Pyongyang in July, the first time foreign officials of such high rank had visited the country since the onset of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. North Korean state media claimed that Shoigu was treated to a tour of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) models and armed drones.