SEOUL • Standing beside North Korea's largest missiles, leader Kim Jong Un said his country's weapons development is necessary in the face of hostile policies from the United States and a military build-up in South Korea, state media said.
Pyongyang was increasing its military only in self-defence and not to start a war, Mr Kim said in a speech at the Defence Development Exhibition on Monday, according to a report by state news agency KCNA.
Mr Kim made the remarks while standing next to a variety of weapons, including the country's intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), photos in the ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun show. Among them was the Hwasong-16, North Korea's largest ICBM, unveiled at a military parade in October last year, but not yet test-fired.
"We are not discussing war with anyone, but rather to prevent war itself and to literally increase war deterrence for the protection of national sovereignty," Mr Kim said, adding that North Korea's main enemy is "war itself".
A spokesman for South Korea's Defence Ministry said that South Korean and the US intelligence agencies are already analysing the equipment displayed at the exhibition and will continue to closely monitor the situation.
The two Koreas have been in an accelerating arms race, with both sides testing increasingly advanced short-range ballistic missiles and other hardware.
South Korea recently test-fired its first submarine-launched ballistic missile, and plans to build major new weapons including aircraft carriers. It has bought American-made F-35 stealth fighters.
North Korea has pushed ahead with its missile programme, and analysts say it has begun a major expansion of its main nuclear reactor, used to produce fuel for nuclear bombs.
The US has said it is willing to hold diplomatic talks at any time with North Korea. Pyongyang has said it is not interested as long as Washington maintains policies such as sanctions and military activities in South Korea.
The US' assertions that it holds no hostile feelings towards North Korea are hard to believe in the face of its continued "wrong judgments and actions", Mr Kim said, without elaborating.
South Korean national security adviser Suh Hoon was expected to meet his American counterpart Jake Sullivan in Washington yesterday to discuss North Korea.
When he arrived in Washington on Monday, Mr Suh told reporters that he planned to discuss President Moon Jae-in's proposal for a formal declaration ending the 1950-1953 Korean War and for the possible easing of sanctions on North Korea, Yonhap news agency reported.
South Korea's "unrestricted and dangerous" efforts to strengthen its military are "destroying the military balance in the Korean peninsula and increasing military instability and danger", Mr Kim said in his speech on Monday.
"Under the absurd pretext of suppressing our threats, South Korea has openly expressed its desire to gain an edge over us in military power on various occasions," he added.