Koreas trade barbs at UN as the North threatens nuclear war

S Korea says the North’s assertions are ‘illogical’ and exactly why drills with the US are needed.
By Lee Jeong-Ho for RFA
Seoul, South Korea
Koreas trade barbs at UN as the North threatens nuclear war North Korea's U.N. Ambassador Song Kim addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023.

The two Koreas traded barbs at the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, with the North threatening a potential nuclear catastrophe in the Korean Peninsula and the South asserting that its military exercises with the U.S. will continue to take place.   

North Korea’s ambassador to the U.N., Kim Song, initiated the verbal attack as he declared that the Korean Peninsula is at an imminent risk of nuclear war. The ambassador vowed to further amplify his country’s self-defense capabilities in light of what he described as an escalation of reckless military adventurism of “hostile forces.” 

“The DPRK is urgently required to further speed up the advancing of its self-defense capabilities to defend itself impregnably,” the North Korean diplomat said, referring to the North’s formal name. “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 endeavors to enhance national defense capabilities would increase in direct proportion.” 

Kim Song described the Korean Peninsula as being in “a state of imminent danger of nuclear war at any moment,” arguing that the U.S. and its “colony” South Korea were solely responsible for the escalation of the regional tension. The ambassador also lambasted the U.S.- South Korea-Japan security cooperation, which he equated  with an Asian version of NATO that has ushered in a “new Cold War” in Northeast Asia. 

Kim Song’s attack incited a strong and immediate rebuttal from the South Korean Deputy Permanent Representative to the U.N., Kim Sang-jin, who dismissed the North’s assertions as “illogical.” 

“North Korea is the only country to conduct a nuclear test in the 21st century, and it has been also escalating tensions by testing an intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM] this year,” the South Korean representative said. “Does anyone find credibility in North Korea’s accusations that South Korea, a fully democratized, economically prosperous nation adhering to the rule of law, is attempting to start a nuclear war in collusion with the United States?”

U.S. soldiers from 2nd Infantry Division, participate in a UFS/TIGER Combined Urban Operations plan as part of Ulchi Freedom Shield exercises, Aug. 23, 2023 on Paju in Gyeonggi-do, South Korea. Credit: EPA via AP, Pool

The South Korean diplomat also defended his country’s military exercises with the U.S., suggesting that they will continue to take place, regardless of Pyongyang’s protest. “The joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea are long-standing and are conducted with defensive intentions.” 

The U.S. and South Korea initiated their three-day joint naval exercises in the waters that divide the Koreas and Japan on Monday, encompassing anti-submarine warfare and naval firing drills.

The exercise is to bolster joint operational capabilities and interoperability amid the rising nuclear and missile threats emanating from North Korea, according to a South Korea Navy statement. The threats have been accentuated by North Korea’s recent launch of a purported space launch vehicle and the introduction of a new submarine.

North Korea labels such joint drills as “invasion practices,” viewing it as a significant threat to its regime’s security.

Edited by Elaine Chan and Mike Firn.


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