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Why Has Kim Jong-Un Ordered Plans for Nuclear Strikes Against South Korea?

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has ordered his military chiefs to prepare plans for nuclear strikes against South Korea. The announcement comes after a five-day series of meetings with party leaders, during which Kim expressed concerns over the escalating tensions in the region and warned that war could erupt “at any time.”

Kim accused the United States of pushing the Korean Peninsula to the “brink of nuclear war,” specifically citing the deployment of a nuclear-armed submarine to South Korea and increased joint military exercises with the U.S. as provocative actions. This follows North Korea’s missile testing in December, which included the launch of its first spy satellite and an advanced intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).

During an impassioned speech, Kim directed military leaders to draw up plans to “pacify the entire territory of South Korea,” even suggesting the use of nuclear bombs if deemed necessary. The aggressive rhetoric, while alarming, is seen by some analysts as a potential negotiating tactic, especially with upcoming elections in the United States and South Korea.

Analysts interpret Kim’s strategy as a negotiation tactic
Experts suggest that Kim’s hardline stance could be a strategic move ahead of the upcoming elections, both in the U.S. and South Korea. President Joe Biden’s administration has expressed openness to talks, but the recent imposition of further sanctions indicates the United States’ firm response to North Korea’s continued missile tests, which violate UN sanctions.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, notes, “Pyongyang might be waiting out the US presidential election to see what its provocations can buy it with the next administration.” Easley adds that North Korea, while not intending to abandon its nuclear weapons, might seek rhetorical restraint and a testing freeze in exchange for sanctions relief.

Kim declares end to discussions on unification with South Korea

In a significant shift, Kim declared that the issue of unification with South Korea could no longer be discussed, asserting that South Korea is now a U.S. “puppet state.” He stated that North-South relations have evolved into a relationship between “two hostile countries, two belligerents at war,” signaling a departure from the talks aimed at creating a single nation with two separate regimes that have been ongoing since 2000.

South Korea issues a stern warning; calls for peace talks
Reacting to Kim’s provocative statements, South Korea’s military issued a stern warning, emphasizing that North Korea would be “doomed” if it used a nuclear weapon against Seoul. Political leaders in South Korea called for the resumption of peace talks amid growing concerns about the deteriorating situation.

With South Korea set to hold parliamentary elections in April, the heightened tensions could significantly impact the political landscape. Conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol, known for maintaining a hawkish stance toward Pyongyang, faces challenges in shaping the domestic and foreign agenda in the midst of the escalating crisis.

The international community is closely monitoring the situation, and the implications of Kim’s directives are likely to dominate diplomatic discussions in the coming weeks. The urgency to find a peaceful resolution has never been more critical as global leaders assess the potential repercussions of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

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