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Is War on the Horizon as South Korea Becomes ‘Primary Foe’?

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared that South Korea should be recognized as the “primary foe” and warned of the possibility of war. During a speech to the Supreme People’s Assembly, North Korea’s parliamentary body, Kim emphasized the need to amend the constitution to reflect this new stance.

Kim conveyed his belief that unification with South Korea was no longer feasible, accusing Seoul of actively seeking regime collapse and pursuing unification through absorption. The North Korean leader proposed constitutional changes to explicitly label South Korea as the “primary foe and invariable principal enemy” while defining the territories of the North and South as distinct entities.

“We don’t want war, but we have no intention of avoiding it,” Kim asserted, as reported by state media KCNA. He called for preparations for “completely occupying, subjugating and reclaiming” South Korea in the event of a conflict. Kim further suggested abandoning the term “fellow countrymen” when referring to South Koreans and advocated for the termination of all inter-Korean communication.

As part of these drastic measures, Kim announced the shutdown of three organizations involved in unification and inter-Korean tourism. Additionally, he called for the destruction of a monument to reunification located in Pyongyang. These moves underscore a sharp deterioration in inter-Korean relations, raising concerns about the potential for heightened tensions and conflict in the region.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol responded to North Korea’s stance, characterizing it as “anti-national” for labeling the South as a hostile country. The rhetoric from both sides further complicates diplomatic efforts and adds to the strained relations that have persisted on the Korean Peninsula.

Kim’s call for constitutional changes coincides with recent escalations in tensions, marked by North Korea’s series of missile tests and a departure from longstanding policies regarding its relationship with the South. Analysts suggest that these developments may lead to North Korea’s foreign ministry taking over relations with Seoul, potentially paving the way for justifying the use of nuclear weapons in a future conflict.

Ruediger Frank, a professor of East Asian Economy and Society at the University of Vienna, emphasized the far-reaching implications of Kim’s new policies. In a report for the U.S.-based 38 North project, Frank noted that these changes could trigger a cascade effect, impacting inter-Korean relations and regional dynamics. The situation raises concerns about the potential for both diplomatic normalization and conflict, reflecting the uncertainty and volatility in the Korean Peninsula.

As global attention turns to the evolving situation, the ramifications of North Korea’s shift in stance and the potential consequences for regional stability remain a subject of intense scrutiny and concern. The international community closely watches for further developments and the potential impact on global security dynamics.

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