(3rd LD) N.K. leader warns S. Korean gov't, military to be annihilated in event of preemptive strike bid
(ATTN: RECASTS 7th para for clarification; ADDS defense ministry's response in paras 10-12)
By Yi Wonju
SEOUL, July 28 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un warned that South Korea's Yoon Suk-yeol government and its "military gangsters" will face annihilation should it make any "dangerous attempt" like a preemptive strike, according to Pyongyang's state media Thursday.
Kim issued the strongly worded, direct warning against the South's conservative administration, coupled with biting criticism of the United States, in his speech the previous day marking the 69th anniversary of the armistice that halted the 1950-53 Korean War. Pyongyang calls the anniversary "Victory Day" and commemorates it in a celebratory mood.
Kim mentioned South Korea's president by name three times in the address and branded its military as gangsters, citing its stated strategy to counter the North's nuclear and missile threats through the reinforcement of the so-called three-pillar system, including the Kill Chain preemptive strike capabilities.
"Such a dangerous attempt would be punished immediately by powerful forces, and the Yoon Seok-yeol administration and his military would be wiped out," he said, appearing in public for the first time in 19 days along with his wife Ri Sol-ju for the Pyongyang ceremony.
Referring to Yoon simply by name without the official title of president, Kim said Pyongyang clearly remembers all of his "absurd remarks" and is also keeping track of the recent absurdities of the "South Korean military gangsters."
He added the North will not tolerate their behavior anymore and warned that they will pay the price if it goes on.
It marked Kim's first formal response to the North Korea policy of the Yoon administration that replaced the liberal Moon Jae-in administration in May.
"It is the first time that Chairman Kim has officially expressed his position on the Yoon Suk-yeol government since its launch," an official at the South's unification ministry told reporters on background.
The ministry is in consultation with other relevant government agencies for a possible response to Kim's speech, the official added.
Seoul's defense ministry dismissed Kim's message as "nothing new."
"The threat from Kim Jong-un is nothing new in a situation that North Korea is continuing to escalate its nuclear and missile threats," the ministry's deputy spokesperson Col. Moon Hong-sik said during a press briefing.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it is keeping close tabs on the activities of the North's military, which appears to be conducting its summertime military drills.
Kim, meanwhile, stressed that his regime is "fully prepared" for any military confrontation with the United States, as he took issue with its joint military exercises with the South.
He repeatedly boasted of the North's nuclear war deterrent and threatened to use it if necessary, although he gave no concrete clue to whether or when his secretive regime will carry out another nuclear test.
"The double standard of the U.S., which misleadingly labels all our daily actions as provocations and threats while holding large-scale joint exercises that seriously threaten our national security, is literally thug-like behavior that pushes North Korea-U.S. relations to conflict and to a point that is irreversible," he said.
The North's armed forces are fully ready to respond to any crisis and its nuclear deterrent also stands fully prepared to use its power "faithfully, accurately and swiftly" in accordance with its mission, he emphasized in the transcript of his speech released by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)
On Wednesday, Kim also visited the Fatherland Liberation War Martyrs Cemetery in Pyongyang to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers during the Korean War, the KCNA reported.
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