Kim Jong-un calls South “principal enemy,” adding new weight to familiar epithet

Posted on : 2024-01-11 16:43 KST Modified on : 2024-01-11 16:43 KST
Kim said North Korea has “no intention of avoiding a war” if necessary
North Korea’s state-run Rodong Sinmun reported on Jan. 10, 2024, that leader Kim Jong-un toured and inspected key munitions factories on Jan. 8-9. (KCNA/Yonhap)
North Korea’s state-run Rodong Sinmun reported on Jan. 10, 2024, that leader Kim Jong-un toured and inspected key munitions factories on Jan. 8-9. (KCNA/Yonhap)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared South Korea to be the “principal enemy” of the North while conducting inspections of major munitions factories on Monday and Tuesday, state media reported. 
While there have been instances in which North Korean officials have called the South their “principal enemy,” this is the first time that Kim publicly voiced such sentiments himself.
“The historic time has come at last when we should define as a state most hostile toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea the entity called the Republic of Korea (ROK) which has pursued a history of vicious confrontation with bloodshot eyes to overthrow our regime and social system for nearly 80 years,” Kim said, according to a report by the Workers’ Party of Korea-run Rodong Sinmun on Wednesday.

“What the DPRK should prioritize in the relations with the hostile state running high fever in arms buildup while inciting the confrontation posture with the former is to bolster up the military capabilities for self-defence and the nuclear war deterrent first of all,” he continued. 
Kim went on to elaborate that if the South “dares attempt to use armed forces against the DPRK or threaten its sovereignty and security and such opportunity comes, we will have no hesitation in annihilating the ROK by mobilizing all means and forces in our hands.”

“We would by no means unilaterally bring a great event by the overwhelming strength in the Korean peninsula but we have no intention of avoiding a war as well,” he continued.
Kim’s use of the phrases “the ROK clan is our principal enemy” and “annihilating the ROK” are in line with the declaration he made during the enlarged plenary meeting of the Workers’ Party of Korea late last month concerning the “fundamental turnabout” in its affairs with the South.
During the meeting, he characterized the relations between the two Koreas as having been “completely fixed into the relations between two states hostile to each other and the relations between two belligerent states,” rather than a homogeneous nation tied by blood. 
At the meeting he went on to instruct the North’s military to “rapidly respond to any possible nuclear crisis and put continuous spurs to the preparations for a great event to suppress the whole territory of south Korea by mobilizing all physical means and forces including nuclear forces in contingency.”
Kim’s emphasis on North Korea’s hostile stance towards South Korea is leading to heightened tensions on the peninsula.
However, the North’s labeling of South Korea as the “principal enemy” is nothing new.
In a speech during a national meeting on emergency disease control in August 2022, Kim Yo-jong, the vice department director of the Workers’ Party, called “the south Korean puppets” the “invariable principal enemy” of the North.
Kim Jong-un also declared the “puppet forces” of the South “our undoubted enemy” during the sixth plenary session of the eighth Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (Dec. 26-31, 2022).
In addition, there are precedents that show how North Korea’s wording changes according to the political climate.
On June 19, 2020, directly after the North blew up the inter-Korean liaison office, a commentary run by the Korea Central News Agency claimed, “The south Korean authorities are the very chief culprit who compelled the DPRK to completely shut down all contact channels with south Korea on the unwavering principle concerning the main enemy.”
However, on April 5, 2022, a year and ten months after that commentary, Kim Yo-Jong released a press statement declaring, “We have already clarified that south Korea is not our principal enemy.”
This goes to show that there’s no ruling out the possibility that North Korea will retract its stance on South Korea being its “principal enemy.”
South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed Kim’s declaration as mere “wordplay,” stating that, “North Korea is bringing up unfounded claims about ‘annihilating’ South Korea despite the South never having instigated military attacks on the North.”

By Lee Je-hun, senior staff writer

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