|North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks a defense development exhibition held in commemoration of the 76th founding anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, Sunday, in this photo released by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) the next day. Yonhap|
By Kang Seung-woo
North Korea has doubled down on its ambition to be declared a nuclear state, while urging the United States to change its "hostile" policy toward the country, and offer sanctions relief.
The country's leader Kim Jong-un made the remarks in a speech at a defense development exhibition to mark the 76th founding anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea, Sunday.
In the speech, Kim accused Seoul of being "hypocritical" and having "double standards" for continuing to boost its military capabilities while talking ostensibly of "peace, cooperation and prosperity."
Expressing "strong regrets," Kim said the North will respond with "strong actions" if South Korea continues to "infringe upon our rights to self-defense."
His remarks come as the North has recently been ramping up accusations that the South and the United States have been employing "double standards" in reference to the allies' criticism of the North's missile launches as provocations while justifying their own as "deterrence."
Park Won-gon, a professor of North Korean Studies at Ewha Womans University, said the North Korean leader's speech boiled down to his ambition to gain the country recognition as a nuclear-armed state.
"Given that North Korea stresses the double standards, Kim's speech means South Korea and the U.S. should not take issue with Pyongyang's weapons development as it is part of the North's self-defense," Park said.
Shin Beom-chul, director of the Center for Diplomacy and Security at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, also said Kim was indirectly urging the international community to acknowledge his country as a nuclear state.
"North Korea's focus on double standards is linked to Pyongyang's push to gain recognition as a nuclear state," Shin said.
Park said the North Korean regime would continue to test-fire its newly developed weapons to monitor responses from the U.S. and South Korea.
At the same time, Kim's speech indicates North Korea is not ready to accept a U.S. proposal to hold talks without preconditions.
"His speech means a rejection of the U.S.'s unconditional talks," Park said.
Shin noted that Pyongyang see sanctions imposed on it and combined military exercises between Seoul and Washington as the Joe Biden administration sticking to a hostile policy.
Kim Song, North Korea's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, also defended his country's "self-defensive deterrent."
"We will continue to consolidate our self-defensive deterrent for safeguarding the national security in the face of the geopolitical environment of the Korean Peninsula and the balance of power in the region as well as ever-straining international relations," the ambassador said during a general debate session of the First Committee of the U.N. General Assembly, Monday.
The experts believe that as long as North Korea seeks to gain recognition as a nuclear state, South Korea is likely to see its room for engaging Pyongyang diminishing.
"The South Korean government is expected to see its possible role for inter-Korean ties diminish as North Korea's stance is that South Korea should not take issue with Pyongyang's weapons development as Seoul is also seeking to acquire modernized weapons," Park said.