North Korea blames US for regional tensions, defends weapons buildup

World Tuesday 12/October/2021 16:30 PM
By: DW
North Korea blames US for regional tensions, defends weapons buildup

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un blamed the United States for hostile policies on Tuesday and said his country is boosting its military capabilities to protect national sovereignty.

Kim accused the US of being the "root cause" of instability on the Korean Peninsula. He said there was no reason to believe that Washington is anything other than "hostile" in its approach towards Pyongyang.

"We are not discussing war with anyone, but rather to prevent war itself and to literally increase war deterrence for the protection of national sovereignty," he said at a defense exhibition amid reports that the country recently tested a hypersonic missile.

While US President Joe Biden's administration has maintained that it has no hostile intent towards the country, Kim told the Defense Development Exhibition: "I am very curious if there are people or countries who believe that."

Kim's latest remarks came as he stood in front of a range of weapons, including a Hwasong-16 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), photos in a local newspaper showed. North Korea's largest ICBM, the Hwasong-16, was unveiled at a military parade late last year, but it is yet to be test-fired.

Race for military equipment

Both Koreas have been testing increasingly sophisticated short-range ballistic missiles and other hardware as the arms race picks up steam. The North has been pushing ahead with its missile program, with some speculation that the country has begun a major expansion of its main nuclear reactor. This, in turn, could be used to produce fuel for nuclear bombs.

On the other hand, South Korea has test-fired its first submarine-launched ballistic missile. It also plans to build new weapons, including aircraft carriers, and has purchased F-35 stealth fighters from its American allies.

The US has also stationed around 28,500 troops in South Korea to prevent any aggression from the North. Washington and Seoul also held joint military exercises as recently as August, a move that has been decried as preparations for war by Kim's North.

No progress for Washington, Pyongyang

Diplomatic relations between the US and North Korea seemed to be heading in the right direction when Kim became the first Pyongyang leader to meet a sitting US president— Donald Trump — at a 2018 summit in Singapore.

However, talks in Hanoi collapsed the following year over sanctions relief and denuclearization.

Despite the US saying that it was willing to hold diplomatic talks with North Korea at any time, the process has remained at a standstill. Pyongyang has said it will not be engaging in talks until sanctions are removed and Washington halts its military activities in South Korea.