North Korea has threatened to “sink” Japan and reduce the United States to “ashes and darkness” amid reports the South is working on possible plans to remove Kim Jong-un.
Pyongyang’s latest nuclear threat comes in the face of a UN Security Council resolution approving tough new sanctions in response to North Korea’s test of a hydrogen bomb earlier this month.
Amid the increasing rhetoric, South Korean defence minister Song Young-moo reportedly told lawmakers in Seoul this month that a special forces “decapitation unit” would be established by the end of the year.
South Korean Defence officials said the unit could conduct cross-border raids with retooled helicopters and transport planes that could penetrate North Korea at night.
The measures have also raised questions about whether South Korea and the US are laying the groundwork to kill or incapacitate Kim and his top aides before they can order an attack, the New York Times reported.
“The best deterrence we can have, next to having our own nukes, is to make Kim Jong-un fear for his life,” Shin Won-sik, a three-star general and former South Korean operational strategist told the NYT.
The North’s official KCNA news agency on Thursday night said “Japan is no longer needed” and urged its armed forces “to vent our spite” against the US.
“The four islands of the archipelago should be sunken into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche. Japan is no longer needed to exist near us,” the committee said in a statement carried by the North’s official KCNA news agency.
Juche is the North’s ruling ideology that mixes Marxism and an extreme form of go-it-alone nationalism preached by state founder Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of the current leader, Kim Jong-un.
Pyongyang’s Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee, which handles the North’s external ties and propaganda, also called for the breakup of the Security Council, which it called “a tool of evil” made up of “money-bribed” countries that move at the order of the United States.
Regional tensions have risen markedly since the reclusive North conducted its sixth, and by far its most powerful, nuclear test on September 3.
The 15-member Security Council voted unanimously on a US-drafted resolution and a new round of sanctions on Monday in response, banning North Korea’s textile exports that are the second largest only to coal and mineral, and capping fuel supplies.
The North reacted to the latest action by the Security Council, which had the backing of veto-holding China and Russia, by reiterating threats to destroy the United States, Japan and South Korea.
“Let’s reduce the US mainland into ashes and darkness. Let’s vent our spite with mobilisation of all retaliation means which have been prepared till now,” the statement said.
The North’s latest threats also singled out Japan for “dancing to the tune” of the United States, saying it should never be pardoned for not offering a sincere apology for its “never-to-be-condoned crimes against our people”, an apparent reference to Japan’s wartime aggression.
It also referred to South Korea as “traitors and dogs” of the United States.
South Korea rejects its own nuclear option
Despite the North’s threats, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said he was against having nuclear weapons in his country, either by developing its own arsenal or bringing back US tactical nuclear weapons that were withdrawn in the early 1990s.
“To respond to North Korea by having our own nuclear weapons will not maintain peace on the Korean peninsula and could lead to a nuclear arms race in north-east Asia,” Moon said in an interview with CNN.
Japan criticised the North’s statement. “This announcement is extremely provocative and egregious. It is something that markedly heightens regional tension and is absolutely unacceptable,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference on Thursday.
North Korea had already categorically rejected the Security Council resolution imposing sanctions over its latest test, vowing to press ahead with its nuclear and missile programs in defiance of international pressure.
A tougher initial US draft of Monday’s resolution was weakened to win the support of China and Russia. Significantly, it stopped short of imposing a full embargo on oil exports to North Korea, most of which come from China.
US President Donald Trump has vowed that North Korea will never be allowed to threaten the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile, but has also asked China to do more to rein in its isolated neighbour.
China in turn favours an international response to the problem.
– With AAP