SEOUL, South Korea – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reviewed a rare display of weapon systems and vowed to build an “invincible” military when he accused the United States of creating tension and failing to take action to prove it was not hostile Intentions towards the North, state media reported on Tuesday.
In an apparent continued effort to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul, Kim also said that his military-building efforts are not targeting South Korea and that there should be no further war in which Koreans are pitted against each other.
Kim delivered the speech on Monday at the Defense Development Exhibition, an event to celebrate the 76th birthday of the ruling Labor Party the day before. The event featured a range of new weapons, including ICBMs, which North Korea has already tested or shown at military parades.
“The US has often signaled that it is not hostile to our state, but there is no action-based evidence to lead us to believe it is not hostile,” Kim said, according to the Korean Central News Agency. “The US continues to cause tension in the region with its wrong judgments and actions.”
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Calling the United States a “source” of instability in the Korean peninsula, Kim said his country’s primary goal is to have an “invincible military ability” that no one can challenge.
Kim accused South Korea of hypocrisy for criticizing North Korea’s weapons development as a provocation while also spending large amounts of money increasing its own military capabilities, including buying advanced US stealth fighters. But he still said his military was not targeting South Korea.
“I’ll say again that South Korea is not what our armed forces are fighting,” said Kim. “We are certainly not strengthening our defense capability because of South Korea. We should not repeat a terrible story of compatriots using violence against one another. “
North Korean state media photos showed Kim, dressed in a dark suit, walking along a red carpet lined with large missiles on trucks, passing a multi-missile launch system, and watching jets fly in formation.
The Seoul Department of Defense said South Korean and US intelligence agencies analyzed the North Korean weapons on display but did not elaborate on them. The Seoul Unification Ministry said Monday’s exhibition was the first of its kind since Kim came to power in 2011.
Yang Wook, a military expert who teaches at Hannam University in South Korea, said the weapons shown in the photos were largely what the north had shown at military parades. Among them was what appears to be a new ICBM that North Korea unveiled during a military parade last year but has not yet fired, Yang said. This missile, the Hwasong-16, is considered to be the largest ICBM to date in the north.
South Korean media reported that the exhibition on Monday also showed another ICBM and short-range missiles that North Korea has already tested.
“Basically, North Korea wants to send this message: ‘We will continue to develop new weapons and arm ourselves with nuclear weapons, so do not impose sanctions on them as we cannot agree on the double standards,'” Yang said.
North Korea has sent mixed signals to its rivals in the past few weeks.
Last month, North Korea conducted its first missile tests in six months, including nuclear-capable weapons that could reach targets in South Korea and Japan, both countries where the US has military bases. But North Korea has still restored dormant phone and fax channels with South Korea, saying it is open to resuming official talks with South Korea if the conditions are met.
Some experts say North Korea is trying to use South Korea’s desire to improve relations to put pressure on the United States to relax sanctions on the North and make other concessions.
North Korea has long sought improved relations with the United States because it wanted sanctions relief and a better security environment to focus on revitalizing its dying economy. High-stakes diplomacy between countries broke up in early 2019 after the Americans rejected North Korea’s demands for far-reaching sanctions easing in return for partial disarmament steps.
The USA recently offered repeated talks with North Korea “anywhere and at any time” without any preconditions. Kim has called such an offer a “cunning” attempt to hide US hostility towards North Korea, as he wants Washington to relax sanctions or suspend regular military exercises with Seoul before talks can resume.
Despite his recent missile testing, Kim still maintains a self-imposed 2018 moratorium on long-range missile tests aimed directly at the American homeland, a sign that he wants to keep the chances of future talks with Washington alive.