North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said his country will abandon its decades-old policy of seeking reconciliation with South Korea as tensions continue to soar on the Korean Peninsula.
In a speech on Monday, Kim called for Pyongyang to change its constitution to label Seoul as an “invariable principal enemy.” If war breaks out, Kim said North Korea’s goal should be to take over South Korean territory.
“In my opinion, we can specify in our constitution the issue of completely occupying, subjugating and reclaiming the ROK [Republic of Korea] and annex it as a part of the territory of our Republic in case of a war breaks out on the Korean peninsula,” he said, according to The Pyongyang Times.
Kim said a statue erected in Pyongyang in 2001 to commemorate former North Korean leader Kim Il Sung’s reunification proposals should be removed. “We should also completely remove the eye-sore ‘Monument to the Three Charters for National Reunification’ standing at the southern gateway to the capital city of Pyongyang and take other measures so as to completely eliminate such concepts as ‘reunification,’ ‘reconciliation’ and ‘fellow countrymen’ from the national history of our Republic,” he said.
The North Korean leader blamed the tensions on the US and joint military drills it has held with South Korea. The US and South Korea resumed major war games in 2022 after South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol came into office. Yoon vowed to take a much harder line than his predecessor, Moon Jae-in, who pursued Korean reunification.
The US-South Korean drills are extremely provocative toward the North, as they have included rehearsing the assassination of Kim. The US has also deployed bombers and other strategic assets to the region, including docking a nuclear-armed submarine in South Korea for the first time since the 1980s.
North Korea typically responds to the provocations by firing missiles or other types of weapons, and the two sides are stuck in a cycle of tit-for-tat escalation. The Biden administration has shown no interest in de-escalation as it likely views the deployments to the Korean Peninsula as part of its military buildup against China in the region.
Kim said instability “of the regional situation is soaring due to the US-led escalation of military tensions” and that the “danger of the outbreak of a war to be caused by a physical clash has considerably aggravated and reached a red line. We do not want war, but we also have no intention of avoiding it.”
North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly has followed Kim’s speech by abolishing government organizations responsible for communication with the South and working toward reconciliation, known as the National Economic Cooperation Bureau and the Mount Kumgang International Tourism Administration. The Assembly said the two Koreas are in “acute confrontation.”