North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has emphasized the crucial need for maximum preparedness to counter potential military threats from the United States and South Korea. In a meeting with military commanders, Kim expressed concern over escalating risks of armed conflict on the Korean peninsula due to perceived hostile actions by the U.S. and its allies. 

He urged the enhancement of North Korea’s defensive capabilities, emphasizing the military’s role in safeguarding the nation. Kim called for readiness to mobilize formidable resources decisively in the event of a military confrontation and quoted the need to deal a “deadly blow” to eliminate perceived threats.

Kim’s remarks coincided with a celebration of the military’s achievements in 2023, marked by tests of large ballistic missiles and the launch of a military reconnaissance satellite. The heightened military rhetoric follows a commitment to bolster North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and develop military drones, against the backdrop of increased joint military drills between the U.S. and South Korea. 

As both countries approach pivotal elections, North Korea may seek to leverage its military posture. In response, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol pledged to expedite a missile defense system and a mechanism using U.S. extended deterrence against potential North Korean threats. Meanwhile, separate reports highlighted Kim’s participation in a New Year’s reception and a late-night “grand art performance” in Pyongyang, featuring various performances and fireworks to welcome the new year.