N. Korea’s Kim warns of ‘nuclear attack’ if ‘provoked’ with nukes

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned Pyongyang will not hesitate to launch a nuclear attack if “provoked with nukes”, state media said Thursday, while Seoul and its allies called for “dialogue without preconditions”.

Kim’s warning follows a meeting between South Korea and the United States last week in Washington, where they discussed nuclear deterrence in the event of conflict with the North.

The meeting’s agenda included “nuclear and strategic planning”, and the allies reiterated that any nuclear attack by Pyongyang on the United States or South Korea would result in the end of the North Korean regime.

But Kim told his military’s missile bureau “not to hesitate (launching) even a nuclear attack when the enemy provokes it with nukes,” Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency said Thursday.

Washington, Seoul and Tokyo released a statement shortly afterwards, urging the nuclear-armed country to “stop conducting further provocations and accept our call for engaging in substantive dialogue without preconditions”.

The three countries have ramped up defence cooperation in the face of a record-breaking series of weapons tests by Pyongyang this year, and on Tuesday activated a system to share real-time data on North Korean missile launches.

The North on Monday launched its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile, the Hwasong-18, later describing it as “a warning counter-measure” against what it described as persistent acts of “military threat” by Washington and its allies.

Last week, a U.S. nuclear-powered submarine arrived in the South Korean port city of Busan, and on Wednesday, Washington flew its long-range bombers in drills with Seoul and Tokyo.

The North has recently stressed that the “Korean peninsula is in a state of war by law” and that “strategic assets” deployed by Washington in the South will be “the first targets of destruction”.

In October, when a U.S. B-52 bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons took part in Seoul, Tokyo and Washington’s first joint aerial drills, Pyongyang described the exercise as “the intentional nuclear war provocative moves of the U.S.”.

Pyongyang sees drills by the United States and its allies as rehearsals for invasion and has long justified its blitz of missile launches as necessary “countermeasures”.

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