The comments, carried by the North's official KCNA news agency,
marked a further escalation of tension on the Korean peninsula after
the U.N. Security Council imposed harsh new sanctions on the
isolated state for its nuclear programme.
North Korea, known for belligerent rhetoric, has previously
threatened pre-emptive attacks on its enemies, including South Korea
and the United States. Military experts doubt it has yet developed
the capability to fire a long-range missile with a miniaturised
warhead to deliver a nuclear weapon as far as the United States.
Kim made the comments as he supervised military exercises involving
newly developed rocket launchers, KCNA reported. It did not mention
the date of the drills but said the new weapons had South Korea
South Korea's defence ministry said on Thursday the North launched
several projectiles off its coast into the sea, up to 150 km (90
miles) away, an apparent response to the U.N. sanctions.
Kim said North Korea should "bolster up (its) nuclear force both in
quality and quantity" and stressed "the need to get the nuclear
warheads deployed for national defence always on standby so as to be
fired any moment," KCNA quoted him as saying.
"Now is the time for us to convert our mode of military
counteraction toward the enemies into a pre-emptive attack one in
Kim criticised South Korean President Park Geun-hye in his first
direct published mention of her by name for acting "in league with
the U.S. scoundrels," adding, "her hysteria will precipitate only
her ruin in the long run," KCNA said.
A spokesman for South Korea's Unification Ministry, which handles
relations with the North, said Kim's comments were not helpful and
may have been intended for the domestic audience, to boost morale in
the face of the new U.N. sanctions.
Responding to the report, a U.S. Defense Department spokesman,
Commander Bill Urban, said, "We urge North Korea to refrain from
provocative actions that aggravate tensions and instead focus on
fulfilling its international obligations and commitments."
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that given the
sensitive and complex situation on the Korean peninsula, China hoped
the parties would maintain restraint, and "be careful in their words
and actions, and not take any actions that would exacerbate tensions
in this situation".
The latest U.N. sanctions, drafted by the United States and China,
the North's main ally, punish the isolated country following its
fourth nuclear test, in January, as well as last month's satellite
launch, which the United States and others say was really a test of
ballistic missile technology.
Later on Friday, North Korea rejected the Security Council
resolution as a "criminal act" masterminded by the United States and
vowed to continue boosting its nuclear deterrent and move forward on
the path to become a "satellite superpower".
[to top of second column]
"Our response will involve the full use of various means and tools
including a strong and ruthless physical response," KCNA quoted an
unnamed government spokesman as saying.
POSSIBLE ENGINE TEST EYED
South Korea and the U.S. militaries are set to formally begin talks
on Friday on deployment of the advanced anti-missile Terminal High
Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system with the U.S. military in the
China and Russia oppose the deployment of THAAD, which has powerful
radar capable of penetrating deep into their countries, but South
Korea and the United States have said it is needed in response to
the heightened missile threat from the North.
Johns Hopkins University's 38 North project, which monitors North
Korea, said recent commercial satellite imagery showed new activity
in the isolated country, including a convoy of trucks at its
satellite launch station that could be preparations for a
The site on the North's west coast is the upgraded rocket station
where it launched a long-range rocket on Feb. 7 that put an object
into space, but was condemned by the Security Council as violation
of past resolutions that ban the use of ballistic missile technology
by the North.
On Thursday, South Korean President Park repeated a warning to the
North to abandon its nuclear ambitions and said she would work to
"end tyranny" by its leader.
They were the toughest-ever comments against Pyongyang by Park,
whose recent hard line against the North is a shift from her earlier
policy of "trustpolitik" that focused on trying to engage in
North Korea's Rodong Sinmun, the official daily newspaper of the
ruling Workers' Party, on Friday carried three pages of a report and
photographs of leader Kim supervising the rocket launch drills.
It also ran a full-page commentary insulting Park as "a wicked woman
who does everything evil against the compatriots in the North."
(Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Washington and Megha
Rajagopalan in Beijing; Editing by Tony Munroe and Raju
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.