North Korean leader Kim Jong-un threatened to expand his country's nuclear arsenal and develop more sophisticated atomic weapons systems, saying the fate of relations with the US depends on whether it abandons its hostile policy.
Mr Kim’s comments, made on Friday during a ruling party meeting, were seen as an effort to apply pressure on the incoming government of president-elect Joe Biden.
The Korean Central News Agency said Saturday that Mr Kim had stated the “key to establishing new relations between (North Korea) and the United States is whether the United States withdraws its hostile policy” towards North Korea.
Mr Kim said he will not use his weapons unless “hostile forces” intend to use their nuclear weapons against North Korea first. He added that North Korea must further strengthen its military and nuclear capability as the danger of a US invasion of North Korea increases.
Mr Kim ordered officials to develop missiles with multiple warheads, submarine-launched nuclear missiles, spy satellites and nuclear-powered submarines.
The Korean Central News Agency said Mr Kim’s order was made during a meeting on Friday of the country’s first ruling party congress in five years.
He said North Korea must also advance the precision attack capability on targets in the 15,000 kilometre striking range, an apparent reference to the US mainland, and develop technology to manufacture smaller, lighter nuclear warheads to be mounted on long-range missiles more easily.
“Nothing would be more foolish and dangerous than not strengthening our might tirelessly and having an easy-going attitude at a time when we clearly see the enemy’s state-of-the-art weapons are being increased more than ever,” Mr Kim said. “The reality is that we can achieve peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula when we constantly build up our national defence and suppress US military threats.”
It is unclear if North Korea is capable of developing such systems. Estimates on the exact status of its nuclear and missile programmes vary widely. In 2018, the South Korean government said North Korea was estimated to have up to 60 nuclear weapons.