In an apparent continued effort to drive a wedge between Washington and Seoul, the North Korean leader also used his speech at a rare exhibition of weapons systems Monday to stress that his military might isn’t targeted at South Korea and that there shouldn’t be another war pitting Korean people against each other.
“The U.S. has frequently signaled it’s not hostile to our state, but there is no action-based evidence to make us believe that they are not hostile,” Kim stated Monday, according to the official Korean Central News Agency. “The U.S. is continuing to create tensions in the region with its wrong judgments and actions.”
Calling the United States a “source” of instability on the Korean Peninsula, Kim insisted his country’s most important objective is possessing an “invincible military capability” that no one can dare challenge.
The exhibition, which KCNA reports was intended to mark the 76th birthday of the ruling Workers’ Party on Sunday, was the first of its kind since Kim took power in late 2011, according to Seoul officials. North Korean photos captured Kim, clad in a dark suit, walking on a red carpet lined with big missiles mounted on trucks, passing by a multiple rocket launch system and watching jets flying in a formation.
The exhibition featured an array of newly developed artillery, including intercontinental ballistic missiles North Korea has already test-launched or displayed during military parades in recent years, experts say.
“Basically, North Korea wants to send this message: ‘We’ll continue to develop new weapons and arm ourselves with nuclear force, so don’t slap sanctions with these as we can’t agree on the double standards,’” Yang said.
North Korea has long sought improved ties with the United States because it wants sanctions relief and a better security environment to focus on reviving its moribund economy. The high-stakes diplomacy between the countries fell apart in early 2019 after the Americans rejected North Korea’s calls for extensive sanctions relief in return for partial disarmament steps.
The United States has recently offered talks with North Korea “anywhere and at any time” without preconditions. Kim has called such an offer a “cunning” attempt to conceal U.S. hostility against North Korea, as he wants Washington to ease the sanctions or suspend its regular military drills with Seoul first before the talks can resume.
Despite its recent missile tests, Kim still maintains a 2018 self-imposed moratorium on long-range missile tests directly targeting the American homeland, a sign that he still hopes to keep alive chances for future talks with Washington.