Kim Jong-un signals intentions of improving inter-Korean relations during military parade

Posted on : 2020-10-12 16:24 KST Modified on : 2020-10-12 16:24 KST
N. Korean leader stresses continuing “war deterrence” but refrains from aggressive rhetoric
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks at a military parade commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang on Oct. 10. (KCNA/Yonhap News)
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks at a military parade commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea in Pyongyang on Oct. 10. (KCNA/Yonhap News)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signaled his intention of improving inter-Korean relations, declaring that he was “hoping for the day when North and South join hands again.”

While Kim announced plans to “continue strengthening war deterrence,” he also moderated the message by avoiding excessively aggressive rhetoric and stressing that he would not abuse that deterrence or use it preemptively.

Speaking at a military parade held at 12 am on Oct. 10 for the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Kim said, “I send warm feelings to our beloved fellow Koreans in the South, and I hope that this public health crisis is quickly overcome and that the day comes when North and South join hands again.”

The friendly nature of his remarks, which come amid a chill on the Korean Peninsula after the recent fatal shooting of a South Korean government official off the coast of Yeonpyeong Island in the West Sea, were read as signaling that Kim does not intend to leave the souring of inter-Korean relations unaddressed any longer. After the incident was reported last month, Kim shared a message of apology, saying he was “deeply sorry that an unexpected and unfortunate thing has happened in our territorial waters that delivered a big disappointment to President Moon Jae-in and the people of the South.”

This was seen as suggesting he intends to manage matters so that the situation on the peninsula and the instability in inter-Korean relations does not create issues at a time when the focus is on combating the spread of COVID-19 and repairing flood damage. It is also being interpreted as reflecting the possibility of inter-Korean relations improving eventually as North Korea-US relations are reconfigured after next month’s US presidential election.

In a briefing held just after a meeting of its National Security Council (NSC) standing committee, the Blue House remained circumspect, insisting that “the various agreements between South and North to prevent armed clashes and war must be observed.” At the same time, it also said, “We intend to consider North Korea’s position on restoring inter-Korean relations once the environment takes shape, while also closely observing related trends, with the relevant ministries responding according to coordinate position.” The remarks hinted that the presiding government ministries may proceed into “practice” and “action.”

Kim says he will never abuse war deterrence or use it preemptively

In his speech, Kim said, “Our war deterrence will not be abused and will never be used preemptively, but if any forces should attempt to use military force against use, we will respond with a full-scale preemptive mobilization of the most offensive force.” He also stressed that North Korea’s military strength has “changed a great deal in terms of its modernization.”

“We will continue to strengthen war deterrence as a legitimate means of self-defense,” he pledged.

In a break with precedent, Kim appeared to moderate his tone with relatively restrained rhetoric that avoided provocations and direct references to nuclear weapons, missiles, and other strategic arms. Instead, the North demonstrated its military strength at the ensuing parade with the unveiling of a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) larger than the previous Hwasong-15, as well as a new submarine-launched ballistic missile called the Pukguksong-4.

With Kim refraining from provocative messaging, the US has also been avoiding additional provocation, confining its response to the general level. But it did signal alarm over the new strategic weapons unveiled at the parade. When asked by the Hankyoreh for a statement on North Korea’s military parade, a US official expressed disappointment over Pyongyang’s prioritization of its banned nuclear and ballistic missile programs and urged it to take part in dialogue toward complete denuclearization.

Unusual display of emotion while thanking people of N. Korea

Kim expressed a mixture of apology and gratitude as he looked back on the “triple suffering” that the North Korean people have experienced this year: long-term UN sanctions, COVID-19, and severe flooding.

“On the unforeseen fronts of disease control and natural disaster recovery, the patriotic and heroic dedication shown by our soldiers is something that cannot be witnessed without tears of gratitude,” he said in a message of appreciation. He also expressed appreciation -- even tearing up at times -- as he spoke about the cooperation from North Korean residents, calling them “the true patriots who firmly support this country with their diligent sweat and toil.”

Such a display of emotion is unusual, with little precedent in the regimes of Kim’s grandfather Kim Il-sung or his father Kim Jong-il. Observers interpreted it as part of an effort to highlight his human side while consoling and encouraging the North Korean public amid their struggles with various natural disasters.

By Park Byong-su, senior staff writer, Kim Ji-eun, staff reporter, and Hwang Joon-bum, Washington correspondent

Please direct comments or questions to []

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories

Most viewed articles