N Korea’s Kim says US, S Korea threaten peace with arms buildup

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has said his country’s weapons development is necessary in the face of ‘hostile’ policies from the United States and a military buildup in South Korea that is destabilising the peninsula, state media reported.

Pyongyang was only increasing its military in self-defence and not to start a war, Kim said in a speech at the Defence Development Exhibition, according to a report on Tuesday by state news agency KCNA.

“The United States has been frequently signalling that it’s not hostile to our country, but there has been no behavioural ground to believe that it is not,” Kim was quoted as saying by KCNA.

“For our descendants we need to be strong. We need to first be strong. The military threats our country is facing is different from what we saw 10, five or three years ago,” he said, adding that tensions on the Korean peninsula will not be easily resolved “due to the US”.

Yang Uk, an expert in military strategic studies at Hannam University in Seoul, told Al Jazeera that Kim’s message on alleged US “hostility” was nothing if not “constant”.

Kim made the remarks standing in front of a variety of weapons, including a Hwasong-16 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), photos in the ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun showed.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (centre) speaks before the opening ceremony of The Defence Development Exhibition in Pyongyang [KCNA via AFP]
The Hwasong-16 is North Korea’s largest ICBM and was unveiled at a military parade in October 2020, but not yet test fired.

“We are not discussing war with anyone, but rather to prevent war itself and to literally increase war deterrence for the protection of national sovereignty,” he added.

The two Koreas have been in an accelerating arms race, with both sides testing increasingly advanced short-range ballistic missiles and other hardware.