SEOUL, Aug 29: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for his military to be constantly ready for
combat to thwart its rivals’ plots to invade his country, state media said on Tuesday, as the US, South
Korea and Japan held a trilateral naval exercise to deal with North Korea’s evolving nuclear threats.
The US and South Korean militaries have been separately holding summer bilateral exercises since
last week. North Korea views such US-involved training as an invasion rehearsal, though Washington
and its partners maintain their drills are defensive.
Kim said in a speech marking the country’s Navy Day on Monday that the waters off the Korean
Peninsula have been made unstable “with the danger of a nuclear war” because of US-led hostilities,
according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
He accused the US of conducting “more frantic” naval drills with its allies and deploying strategic
assets in waters around the Korean Peninsula. Kim also cited a recent US-South Korean-Japanese
summit where an agreement to boost defense cooperation was reached to counter North Korea’s
nuclear programme. Kim called President Joe Biden, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida “the gang bosses” of the three countries.
“The prevailing situation requires our navy to put all its efforts into rounding off the war readiness to
maintain the constant combat alertness and get prepared to break the enemy’s will for war in
contingency,” Kim said.
South Korea’s Foreign Ministry expressed deep regret over Kim’s use of “very rude language” to
slander the South Korean, US and Japanese leaders. Spokesperson Lim Soosuk told reporters that
North Korea must immediately stop acts that raise tensions with “reckless threats and provocation”.
Tuesday’s South Korean-US-Japanese drills in international waters off South Korea’s southern Jeju
island involved naval destroyers from the three countries. The training was aimed at mastering
procedures for detecting, tracking and sharing information about incoming North Korean missiles,
South Korea’s navy said in a statement.
The US and South Korean militaries began the 11-day bilateral drills on Aug 21. The annual Ulchi
Freedom Shield training is a computer-simulated command post exercise. But they included field
exercises this year.
North Korea typically responds to US-South Korean military drills with its own missile tests. Last
Thursday, its second attempt to launch a spy satellite into space failed. The day the drills began,
KCNA said Kim had observed the test-firings of strategic cruise missiles.
Since the beginning of 2022, North Korea has carried out more than 100 weapons tests, many of
them involving nuclear-capable missiles designed to strike the US, South Korea and Japan. Many
experts say North Korea ultimately wants to use its boosted military capabilities to wrest greater
concessions from the US.
The North’s testing spree has forced the US and South Korea to expand their drills, resume trilateral
training involving Japan and enhance “regular visibility” of US strategic assets to the Korean
Peninsula. In July, the United States deployed a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea for the
first time in four decades.
Earlier this month, the leaders of the US, South Korea and Japan held their first-ever stand-alone
trilateral summit at Camp David. During the meeting, they announced they intend to put into
operation by year’s end the sharing of real-time missile warning data on North Korea and hold
annual trilateral exercises.
Kim has been pushing hard to expand his nuclear arsenal and introduce a slew of sophisticated
During his Navy Day speech, Kim said that military units of each service would be given new
weaponry in line with the government’s decision to expand the operation of tactical nuclear
weapons. He said the navy would become “a component of the state nuclear deterrence carrying
out the strategic duty”.
This suggests North Korea would deploy new nuclear-capable missiles to its navy and other military
State media photos showed Kim visiting the navy headquarters with his daughter, reportedly named
Ju Ae and aged about 10. It was her first public appearance since mid-May. Kim has brought her to a
series of public events since November, sparking speculation about her political status.
South Korean officials say Kim hasn’t anointed her as his heir. They believe Kim likely attempts to use
his daughter’s public appearance as a way to show his people that one of his children would one day
inherit his power in what would be the country’s third hereditary power transfer. (AP)