Leader reportedly tells military to adopt pre-emptive posture after imposition of toughest UN sanctions to date
North Korea should be ready to use nuclear weapons at any time in the face of a growing threat from its foes, leader Kim Jong-un has decreed in a further escalation of tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Kims warning, issued via state-controlled media on Friday morning, appeared to be an attempt to put pressure on the international community after the UN security council on Wednesday adopted a raft of new sanctions against the regime in response to its recent nuclear exam and rocket launching.
Kim, who was supervising the test-firing of newly developed multiple rocket launchers, told North Koreas situation had become so perilous that it should have the option of launching a pre-emptive attack a deviation from previous claims that the Norths nuclear ability was strictly a deterrent.
In an apparent menace to neighbouring South Korea, Kim said the new rocket launchers should be promptly deployed along with other new weaponry.
He said the regimes enemies notably the US were threatening North Koreas survival, the state-controlled KCNA news agency reported.
At an extreme time when the Americans … are urging war and disaster on other countries and people, the only way to defend our sovereignty and right to live is to bolster our nuclear ability, KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
Under the extreme situation that the US imperialist is misusing members of the military influence and is pressuring other countries and people to start war and calamity, the only way for our people to protect sovereignty and rights to live is to strengthen the quality and quantity of nuclear power and realise the balance of power.
We must always be ready to fire our nuclear warheads at any time.
People in the capital, Pyongyang, said the new round of UN sanctions would not affect the countrys progress.
No kind of sanctions will ever work on us, because weve lived under US sanctions for more than half a century, Pyongyang resident Song Hyo-il told the Associated Press.
And in the future were going to build a powerful and prosperous country here, relying on our own development.
The US defence department recommended the North to refrain from provocative actions that worsen tensions, and instead focus on fulfilling its international obligations and commitments.
We are aware of research reports and are closely monitoring the situation on the Korean peninsula in coordination with our regional allies, told Commander Bill Urban, a Pentagon spokesman.
In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told China, North Koreas closest ally, hoped the UN sanctions would be implemented comprehensively and seriously, while harm to ordinary North Korean citizens would be avoided.
At the United Nations, Russias ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, asked about the Norths firing of short-range missiles, told: It means that theyre not drawing the proper conclusions yet.
Japans UN ambassador, Motohide Yoshikawa, told: Thats their way of reacting to what we have decided. They may do something more so we will see.
While North Korea is believed to possess a small stockpile of nuclear warheads, most experts say the regime has yet to develop the technology to miniaturise them so they can be mounted on a missile.
This is not the first time that Kim who became leader in late 2011 after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il has issued threats to the west.
In 2013 he threatened a nuclear strike on the US mainland in response to sanctions imposed after North Korea carried out its third nuclear exam and the US held its traditional joint military manoeuvres with South Korea exercises that Pyongyang regards as a rehearsal for an intrusion of the North.
Dr Leonid Petrov, an expert on North Korea from the Australian National University, told Fridays statement was not an idle threat.
North Korea is prepared to go a long way in this, Petrov told Guardian Australia. They believe its the only way they can protect their regime. The survival of the regime is the main concern for the North Korean leadership.
Petrov said the statement was intended to send a message to the UN security council, including formerly more friendly nations Russia and China.
I believe North Korea[ is] simply mirroring the US rhetoric that nuclear weapons may be used pre-emptively and thats what North Korea believes they also have the right to do, he said.
Fridays advising to the west came as North Korea fired a volley of short-range weapons into the sea off its east coast.
This followed the UN security councils unanimous decision to impose the most severe sanctions against the regime in two decades over its nuclear and rocket tests.
The UN sanctions target mineral exportation and other key sectors of the North Korean economy, as well as blocking the regimes access to international transport systems.
The measures, pass away Wednesday, are designed to limit North Koreas ability to earn foreign currency, which it then uses to fund its nuclear and weapon programmes.
North Korea has previously carried out live firing near or across its borders when facing international condemnation.
Tilman Ruff, a Melbourne University academic and nuclear disarmament advocate, used to say despite North Koreas really frightening and belligerent threats he believed its programme to develop a bomb remained largely a political tool.
I believe the leadership would be cognisant of the fact that the military reply that would follow any nuclear assault on their behalf would be the end of the regime and possibly take out the majority of members of the North Korean population, he said.
Tilman used to say even if the regime had a proven long-range weapon delivery system, the countrys nuclear weapons cache was small.
They have got likely less than 10 relatively crude nuclear weapons, in the global scale of 15, 530 thats less than a 10 th of a percent of the global nuclear arsenal, he said.
I really do think that their nuclear programme is principally about achieving political attention and trying to get the US attention in particular.
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