North Korea accused the United States on Tuesday of making 2023 an “extremely dangerous year,” saying its actions are trying to provoke a nuclear war and denouncing both U.S. and South Korean leaders for “hysterical remarks of confrontation” that it says are raising the temperature in the region.
Kim Song, North Korea's U.N. ambassador, also said Washington was trying to create “the Asian version of NATO,” the military alliance that includes European nations and the United States and Canada.
Mr. Kim came out swinging in his speech to world leaders with harsher words than he brought to the same U.N. General Assembly meeting last year. Such strong language is always noteworthy from a nation developing its nuclear program — but is also hardly uncommon from Pyongyang, a government that sometimes weaponises hyperbole in its public statements.
“Owing to the reckless and continued hysteria of nuclear showdown on the part of the U.S. and its following forces, the year 2023 has been recorded as an extremely dangerous year that the military security situation in and around the Korean peninsula was driven closer to the brink of a nuclear war,” Mr. Kim said.
"The United States is now moving on to the practical stage of realising its sinister intention to provoke a nuclear war," Mr. Kim said. He said the United States' attempt to create an “Asian NATO” was effectively introducing a “new Cold War structure to northeast Asia."
Mr. Kim took particular issue with what he called U.S. and South Korean statements that he said were about “the end of the regime” and the “occupation of Pyongyang,” the capital of what the country calls the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
North Korea itself said just last month that it had rehearsed how it might occupy South Korean territory in the event of a war. Those statements came after North Korea's military said it fired two tactical ballistic missiles from Pyongyang to practice “scorched earth strikes” at major South Korean command centers and operational airfields.
The North said its missile tests were a response to a U.S. flyover of long-range B-1B bombers for a joint training with close ally South Korea. The North periodically launches missiles it says are tests, often in response to a perceived provocation from the United States or the South.
North Korea's appearances at the United Nations are often illuminating, despite the absence of leader Kim Jong Un or other high-level officials, given that hearing words directly from the mouths of the country's leaders — however carefully reviewed and calibrated — is a relatively uncommon occurrence on the international stage.
During his own U.N. speech last week, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol warned fellow world leaders about the recent communication and possible cooperation between North Korea and Russia, saying any action by a permanent U.N. Security Council member to circumvent international norms would be dangerous and “paradoxical.”
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took a lengthy railroad trip to Russia's far east earlier this month and met there with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The two said they may cooperate on defence issues but gave no specifics, which left South Korea and its allies — including the United States — uneasy.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency responded to Yoon's U.N. speech by calling him “a guy with a trash-like brain.” The North Korean government often deploys such ad hominem attacks and once called U.S. President Donald Trump a “dotard.”
The Korean Peninsula was split into the U.S.-supported, capitalistic South Korea and the Soviet-backed, socialist North Korea after its liberation from Japan's 35-year colonial rule at the end of the World War II in 1945. The two Koreas remain along the world's most heavily fortified border since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War, and are technically still in a state of war 70 years after an armistice was signed.
Kim Jong Un oversees an autocratic government and is the third generation of his family to rule. He was preceded by his father, Kim Jong Il, who died in 2011, and his grandfather Kim Il Sung, a former guerrilla who established the state.
Kim Song, the U.N. ambassador, said North Korea had little choice but to build up its methods of defence — another common refrain from the Pyongyang government.
“The DPRK is urgently required to further accelerate the buildup of its self-defence capabilities to defend itself impregnably,” he said. “The more the reckless military moves and provocations of the hostile forces are intensified threatening the sovereignty and security interests of our state, the more our endeavours to enhance national defence capabilities would increase in direct proportion.”