The tone rises north of the 38th parallel. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un called for a stronger nuclear deterrent and reiterated that he would not hesitate to “annihilate” South Korea, called the country’s “main enemy,” state media reported Wednesday, January 10.

Mr. Kim, accompanied by senior party and military officials, visited several munitions factories on Monday and Tuesday. He declared on this occasion that Pyongyang’s priority must be to “strengthen military self-defense capabilities and nuclear deterrence first and foremost,” according to the official KCNA agency.

Images broadcast by state media show the North Korean leader dressed in a long black leather jacket standing in front of what analysts said were short-range ballistic missile launchers believed to be nuclear-capable.

North Korea will not “unilaterally” trigger a conflict, said the North Korean number one according to KCNA, but also “does not intend to avoid a war”. “The historic moment has finally come when we should define (South Korea) as the state most hostile to (North Korea),” Mr. Kim further assured, calling South Korea “our main enemy “.

Live ammunition artillery exercises

The two Koreas are still technically at war since the end of the conflict in 1953, which ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty. For more than 70 years, the peninsula has experienced alternating periods of heightened tensions and relative relaxation. Their relationship is currently at its lowest point in decades.

The statements follow recent live artillery drills by the North Korean military near the disputed maritime border, which prompted evacuation orders and counter-drills. The maneuvers that began Friday represent one of the biggest escalations in tensions between the two sides since 2010, when Pyongyang bombed Yeonpyeong Island, killing four people.

“If (South Korea) dares to attempt to use (its) armed forces against (North Korea) or threaten its sovereignty and security…we will have no hesitation to annihilate (South Korea) by mobilizing all the means and forces” in our possession, warned Mr. Kim according to the official agency.

The comments mark a shift in North Korean policy and suggest that Pyongyang will take a “much tougher stance” towards Seoul in the future, Hong Min told Agence France-Presse (AFP). from the Korea Institute for National Unification.

“This is the first time that the North has called the South the main enemy, which means that North Korea’s approach towards Seoul is shifting towards an ultra-aggressive mode,” he said. added.

Last year, North Korea enshrined its status as a nuclear power in its constitution and fired several intercontinental ballistic missiles, in violation of UN resolutions.

The United States, South Korea and Japan accuse Pyongyang of violating international sanctions by sending missiles to Russia, at war with Ukraine. North Korea successfully put a spy satellite into orbit late last year, after receiving, according to Seoul, help from Russia in exchange for arms transfers.