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North Korea ready to use nukes in conflict with U.S., Kim Jong Un says

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said at a Korean War armistice event that his regime would use its nuclear arsenal in a conflict with the United States and South Korea, state media reported Thursday. Photo by KCNA/EPA-EFE

SEOUL, July 27 (BP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he was prepared to use his country’s nuclear arsenal in a military clash with the United States and threatened to “annihilate” South Korea, state media reported on Thursday.

Kim made the remarks at an event Wednesday in Pyongyang commemorating the 69th anniversary of the armistice that ended fighting in the 1950-1953 Korean War, state-run Korean Central News Agency reported.

“Our armed forces are thoroughly prepared to respond to any crisis and our nation’s nuclear war deterrent is also fully prepared to mobilize its absolute strength faithfully, accurately and promptly for its mission,” Kim said in a speech.

The celebration of what North Korea calls “Victory Day” included fireworks, fighter jet flyovers and performances. It also marked Kim’s first public appearance in almost three weeks.

“The United States, which has caused the most serious harm to our nation’s modern history, continues to engage in dangerous hostile acts against our republic today,” Kim said. “[North] Korea reaffirms its thorough readiness to deal with any military clash with the United States.”

Pyongyang has conducted at least 18 rounds of missile launches this year and appears poised to conduct its seventh nuclear test at any time, according to officials in Washington and Seoul.

Kim also threatened South Korea and its conservative President Yoon Suk-yeol, who has taken a stronger military stance against Pyongyang than his predecessor Moon Jae-in. Yoon and others in his administration have talked openly about conducting pre-emptive strikes against the North if an imminent threat is detected.

“It is absurd and a very dangerous self-destructive act for them to talk about military action against our country, which possesses the absolute weapon they fear the most,” Kim said. “Such a dangerous attempt will be immediately punished by a powerful force and Yoon Suk-yeol’s regime and his army will be annihilated.”

Pyongyang warned in April of a nuclear response to any attack by Seoul and has been testing evasive, short-range missiles that it claims are capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons.

In response to the growing provocations, South Korea and the United States have boosted their military alliance under Yoon and are set to resume full-scale joint military drills next month, further angering the North.

“We are listening to the reckless remarks of the South Korean military thugs and we are keeping a close eye on all noteworthy military actions with the United States,” Kim said.

On Wednesday, South Korean Foreign Minister Park Jin defended the military exercises and said that tensions on the peninsula are being caused by Pyongyang’s provocations.

“For peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, a combined military posture must be maintained,” Park told international media at a briefing in Seoul.

He also warned that a seventh nuclear test by Pyongyang would result in a heavy new round of international sanctions, which could include a focus on the regime’s growing hacking and cybercrime pursuits.

“We need strong sanctions on [the North’s] cyber activities,” he said.

Washington has warned that North Korea-backed hackers are ramping up attacks on a range of targets from cryptocurrency platforms to hospitals in order to fund the regime’s weapons development programs.

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