“In other words, it means that unless the South Korean army takes any military action against our state, it will not be regarded as a target of our attack,” she said.
While the North opposes a war that may put the peninsula into a “disaster” like that in the 1950s, things could change, depending on the South’s moves, she warned.
She even unveiled a scenario of the North mobilizing its nuclear combat force in order to “take initiative at the outset of war” and prevent protracted hostilities.
Ostensibly, she was responding to South Korean Defense Minister Suh Wook’s remarks last Friday that his units have the capabilities to “accurately and swiftly” strike the origin of North Korea’s missile firing in case of clear signs of a launch toward the South.
The secretive North’s intentions behind Kim’s back-to-back statements remain unconfirmed. Some observers have taken note of its timing.
A power transition is just around the corner in South Korea. President Moon Jae-in, who has sought hard to improve Seoul-Pyongyang ties and help achieve denuclearization, is ending his five-year term next month, with the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol elected as his successor.
Yoon has hinted at a tougher stance toward the North, even mentioning the possibility of launching a preemptive strike on the North, if inevitable, during his campaign trail.
Kim’s rhetoric is seen as reflecting the North’s efforts “to strengthen its internal unity in preparation for the possibility of a sudden change in inter-Korean relations ahead of the launch of South Korea’s conservative government in May.” Cheong Seong-chang, director of the center for North Korean studies at the Sejong Institute, said.
In particular, the North is preparing to mark the 110th birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung, the country’s late founding leader, on April 15.
South Korea and the U.S. are reportedly scheduled to begin their springtime combined military exercise later this month.
Cheong, meanwhile, pointed out that Kim’s latest statement was reported as well in the North’s main newspaper Rodong Sinmun, which is largely for the domestic audience.
Kim is effectively showing off, both at home and externally, that she maintains influence on Pyongyang’s policy on Seoul, the expert said.