North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un has pledged to launch three new spy satellites, build military drones and increase his country’s stock of nuclear weapons in 2024.
Mr Kim said moves by the US and its allies against Pyongyang have been unprecedented in 2023, pushing the Korean Peninsula to the brink of nuclear war.
According to the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), he said: “The grave situation requires us to accelerate works to acquire overwhelming war response capabilities and thorough and perfect military readiness to suppress any types of provocations by the enemies at a stroke.”
He made the remarks during a five-day meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party to set state goals for next year, which ended on Saturday.
Mr Kim announced plans to establish three more spy satellites in 2024 after the country launched its first reconnaissance satellite in November.
He also ordered the state to press ahead with work to manufacture more nuclear weapons and develop various types of unmanned combat equipment, such as armed drones and powerful electronic warfare devices, KCNA said.
Mr Kim has focused on modernising his nuclear and missile arsenals since talks with then-US president Donald Trump broke down in 2019 over disagreements about international sanctions on Pyongyang.
Kim cries as he asks women to have more babies
The US soldier who fled to North Korea
What does North Korea want from Putin?
Since last year, North Korea has test-fired more than 100 ballistic missiles – many of which were nuclear-capable weapons which could target the mainland US, in violation of United Nations sanctions.
The US and South Korea responded by expanding their military exercises and deploying US strategic assets such as bombers, aircraft carriers and a nuclear-armed submarine – moves North Korea condemned as US-led invasion rehearsals.
Mr Kim said the return of such weapons had transformed South Korea into a “forward military base and nuclear arsenal” of the US.
“If we look closely at the confrontational military actions by the enemy forces… the word ‘war’ has become a realistic reality and not an abstract concept,” he added.
He said he has no choice but to forge deeper relations with other countries which oppose the US – Pyongyang has close ties with both China and Russia.
Last week, South Korea’s spy agency said North Korea will likely launch military provocations and cyberattacks ahead of Seoul’s parliamentary elections in April and the US presidential election in November.