North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stressed his country will never abandon the nuclear weapons it needs to counter the United States, which he accused of pushing to weaken the North's defenses and eventually collapse his government, state media said Friday.
Kim made the comments during a speech Thursday at North Korea's rubber-stamp parliament, where members passed legislation governing the use of nuclear weapons, which Kim described as a step to cement the country's nuclear status and make clear such weapons will not be bargained. The law included a provision that requires North Korea's military to “automatically” execute nuclear strikes against enemy forces if its leadership comes under attack.
Kim also criticised South Korea over its plans to expand its conventional strike capabilities and revive large-scale military exercises with the United States to counter the North's growing threats, describing them as a “dangerous” military action that raises tensions.
Kim has made increasingly provocative threats of nuclear conflict toward the United States and its allies in Asia, also warning that the North would proactively use its nuclear weapons when threatened. His latest comments underscored the growing animosity in the region as he accelerates the expansion of his nuclear weapons and missiles programme.
“The purpose of the United States is not only to remove our nuclear might itself, but eventually forcing us to surrender or weaken our rights to self-defense through giving up our nukes, so that they could collapse our government at any time,” Kim said in the speech published by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.
“Let them sanction us for 100 days, 1,000 days, 10 years or 100 years,” Kim said. “We will never give up our rights to self-defense that preserves our country's existence and the safety of our people just to temporarily ease the difficulties we are experiencing now.”
Kim also addressed domestic issues, saying North Korea would begin its long-delayed rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in November. He didn't specify how many doses it would have, where they would come from, or how they would be administered across his population of 26 million people.
GAVI, the nonprofit that runs the U.N.-backed COVAX distribution programme, said in June it understood North Korea had accepted an offer of vaccines from China. GAVI said at the time the specifics of the offer were unclear.