North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Monday looked to milk his country’s recent nuclear test as a propaganda victory, praising his scientists and vowing more nuclear bombs a day after the United States flew a powerful nuclear-capable warplane close to the North in a show of force.
A standoff between the rival Koreas has deepened since last week’s test, the North’s fourth.
Condemnation, curb threats
Outside North Korea, Mr. Kim faces widespread condemnation and threats of heavy sanctions over the North’s disputed claim of a hydrogen bomb test.
Internally, however, Mr. Kim’s massive propaganda apparatus has looked to link the test to his leadership so as to glorify him and portray the test as necessary to combat a U.S.-led attempt to topple the North’s authoritarian system.
On Monday, Mr. Kim took photos with nuclear scientists and technicians involved in the test and praised them for “having glorified” his two predecessors, his late father, Kim Jong Il, and his grandfather, state founder Kim Il Sung, according to the state-run Korean Central news Agency.
Terms it “a self-defensive step”
Mr. Kim earlier called the explosion “a self-defensive step” meant to protect the region “from the danger of nuclear war caused by the U.S.-led imperialists,” a separate KCNA dispatch said.
The comments provide insight into North Korea’s long-running argument that it is the presence of tens of thousands of U.S. troops in South Korea and Japan and a “hostile” U.S. policy that justify its pursuit of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
S. Korea: U.S. may deploy more assets In a related development, the United States and its ally South Korea are in talks towards sending further strategic U.S. assets to the Korean peninsula, a day after a U.S. B-52 bomber flew over South Korea in response to North Korea’s nuclear test last week.
“The United States and South Korea are continuously and closely having discussions on additional deployment of strategic assets,” Kim Min-seok, spokesman at the South Korean Defence Ministry said on Monday, declining to give specifics.
Include B-2 bombers, n-powered submarines
South Korean media said strategic assets Washington may utilise in Korea included B-2 bombers, nuclear-powered submarines and F-22 stealth fighter jets.
Seoul also said on Monday that it would restrict access to the jointly-run Kaesong industrial complex just north of the heavily militarised inter-Korean border to the “minimum necessary level” starting from Tuesday.
North Korea says it exploded a hydrogen bomb last Wednesday, although the United States and outside experts doubt that the North had achieved such a technological advance in its fourth nuclear test. The test angered China, the North’s main ally, which was not given advance notice, and the United States.
S. Korea, Japan getting closer after n-test
Separately, South Korea and Japan used their shared military hotline for the first time in the aftermath of North Korea’s nuclear test, Seoul’s Defence Ministry said, a sign the North’s provocation is pushing the two long-time rivals, which are Washington’s main allies in the region, closer together.
South Korea has also resumed anti-North propaganda broadcasts using loudspeakers along the border, a tactic that the North considers insulting and resulting in an armed standoff that included an exchange of artillery fire the last time South Korea used the speakers in August.
Park Geun-hye to address nation
South Korea’s president Park Geun-hye plans to make a speech to the nation on Wednesday in which she is expected to express strong will to respond to North Korea’s nuclear test, a presidential official said.
North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper, the mouthpiece of the ruling Workers’ Party, said that the United States was bringing the political situation to the brink of war by sending strategic bombers to South Korea.
S. Korea expects ‘further provocations’
The chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Monday that North Korea was likely to carry out further sudden provocations, a South Korean Defence Ministry official said.
Lee Sun-jin’s comments were made during a visit with General Curtis Scaparrotti, the commander of U.S. forces in Korea, to the Osan Air Base operated jointly with U.S. and South Korea.
Meanwhile, U.S. forces in South Korea were put on their highest level of alert on Monday in case of any provocation from North Korea.
Curtis Scaparrotti, Commander, U.N. Command/Combined Forces Command/United States Forces Korea (USFK), made the order during a visit to the Osan Air Base, operated jointly by the United States and South Korea, a USFK official said.