North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un has threatened to use nuclear weapons in the event of military conflict with the United States and South Korea, according to remarks reported by state media on Thursday.
“Our armed forces are thoroughly prepared to respond to any crisis,” Kim said.
He added that North Korea’s nuclear deterrence forces were ready to mobilise “accurately and promptly” for their mission.
Ahead of the start of joint summer military exercises by U.S. and South Korean forces next month, Kim adopted a sharper tone than usual.
South Korea faced total destruction, if it undertook “dangerous attempts” against North Korea, he said in reference to plans by the government in Seoul to revive a system for preventive strikes to counter Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programme.
Kim’s remarks were made during a speech to veterans in Pyongyang on Wednesday to mark the 69th anniversary of the signing of a ceasefire ending the 1950-53 Korean War.
The day is marked as “Victory Day” in North Korea.
North Korea has conducted several missile tests this year in contravention of United Nations resolutions amid rising tension in the region.
The Pyongyang government is subject to stringent sanctions as a result of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programme.
For its part, North Korea accuses the U.S. of adopting hostile policies.
The U.S. and South Korea are to conduct joint field exercises again this year during their joint manoeuvres after reducing them in recent years as a diplomatic gesture.