Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, stated on Thursday that his country is prepared to deploy its nuclear war deterrent and for any armed conflict with the United States, according to state media, in the face of indications that the North could perform its first nuclear test since 2017.
Kim stated that the standoff with the United States presented nuclear risks because it needed the North to complete a "urgent historical mission" of bolstering its self-defense.
According to the official KCNA news agency, Kim made the remarks during a speech at an event commemorating the 69th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, which legally left the two Koreas at war.
"Our armed forces are thoroughly prepared to respond to any crisis, and our nation's nuclear war deterrence is likewise fully prepared to unleash its ultimate might truthfully, precisely, and expeditiously," he stated.
Kim made the disclosure after Seoul and Washington officials said Pyongyang has completed preparations to conduct its first nuclear test.
South Korea's foreign minister stated on Wednesday that if North Korea proceeds with the test, it will likely face tougher restrictions, including measures aimed at limiting its cyberattack capabilities.
South Korea's unification minister in charge of inter-Korean matters stated on Tuesday that there was a "possibility" of a nuclear test occurring in time for the anniversary, while a military official stated that there were no immediate indications of such a test.
In his statement, Kim claimed that 70 years after the end of the Korean War, the United States continues "dangerous, illegal hostile acts" with South Korea against the North.
The North has long alleged that the United States has been applying double standards to its military activities and pursuing an antagonistic policy toward Pyongyang.
The North also alleges that this impedes the resumption of negotiations aimed at dismantling the country's nuclear and missile programs in exchange for sanctions relief.
"The double act of the United States, which misrepresents all the normal acts of our armed forces as 'provocation' and 'threat' while conducting large-scale joint military drills that pose a grave threat to our security, is essentially a theft," added Kim.
Kim attacked the Yoon Suk-yeol administration in South Korea, stating that any attempts to preemptively incapacitate the North will be faced with a severe punishment and "annihilation."
Kim stated, "I reiterate that North Korea is completely prepared for any military conflict with the United States."