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Kim Jong Un says he’s ready to fight US, ‘eliminate’ South Korea

People watch a television broadcast showing a file image of a North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un at the Seoul Railway Station on June 5, 2022, in Seoul, South Korea.   (Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images North America/TNS)
By Jeong-Ho Lee Bloomberg News

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un threatened to “eliminate” South Korea and said he was ready for any battle with the U.S. in a speech to mark the 69th anniversary of the deal that ended fighting in the Korean War.

Kim, making his first appearance in public in nearly three weeks, delivered one of his strongest rhetorical attacks against South Korea since conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol took office in May and pledged to take a tough line toward Pyongyang.

The North Korean leader said that “U.S. imperialists are pushing the South Korean authorities into a suicidal confrontation” with his nation, the state’s official Korean Central News Agency reported Thursday.

“The South Korean regime and its military thugs are devising tactics to confront us militarily,” Kim said. “Such a dangerous attempt will be immediately punished by our powerful force, and the Yun Suk Yeol regime and his army will be eliminated.”

Kim has been stepping up his provocations this year while U.S. attention has been diverted toward Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by firing off a record number of ballistic missiles and showing signs it could conduct its first nuclear test since 2017. The fiery speech serves as a reminder to President Joe Biden of the pressing security problems posed by Pyongyang.

The speech marked the July 27 signing of the armistice agreement among U.S.-led United Nations forces, North Korea and China that brought a cease-fire to the 1950-1953 Korean War. Even though it ended in a stalemate, North Korea celebrates the day as a “Victory in the Fatherland.”

The U.S. push to isolate Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, coupled with increasing animosity toward China, has allowed Kim to strengthen his nuclear deterrent without fear of facing more sanctions at the U.N. Security Council.

There’s almost no chance Russia or China, which have veto power at the council, would support any measures against North Korea, as they did in 2017 following a series of weapons tests that prompted former President Donald Trump to warn of “fire and fury.”

Kim often drops out of the public eye in the summer for stays at his coastal mansion and megayacht. But any prolonged absence raises questions about the health of the 38-year-old, whose longest time out of without a public appearance as leader was six weeks in 2014. His last appearance in state media came on July 9 when he appeared at a photo session with ruling party cadres.