North Korean leader Kim Jong-un picked up 2014 right where he left off in 2013, using his New Year’s Day speech to once more call his executed uncle “filth” and threaten that aggression from the United States or South Korea could lead to “deadly nuclear catastrophe.”
Kim’s traditional New Year’s address focused mostly on what he considered the many successes of North Korea’s impoverished and fragile state, according to CNN. But Kim took the opportunity to personally comment on the execution of his uncle, Jang Song-Thaek, whom the country’s state press had deemed “worse than a dog” in an announcement of his execution, which is no longer online. The commentary was somewhat surprising given that the North Korean government appears to have gone a long way to erase Jang from the nation’s history.
Without using his name, Kim discussed the destruction of “factionalist filth” within the party, calling the purge of his uncle and potentially hundreds of his family members a good move “at an opportune time and with a correct decision.” The move, Kim explained, strengthened the nation “by 100 times,” which was necessary in light of looming threats Kim believed were present from outside powers attempting to rein him in. Many speculate that Jang had become a liability because of growing ties to China that made him more easily disposed to capitalist pursuits, leaving China in a confusing diplomatic position after his demise.
Decrying the “war maniacs” of the United States and South Korea by name, Kim warned that both were preparing for nuclear war against North Korea and were “going frantic” trying to practice before the war began. Arguing that it was these other nations that were bloodthirsty and hoping to attack North Korea, Kim threatened that should the United States or South Korea act on this desire for war, “it will result in a deadly nuclear catastrophe and the United States will never be safe.”
North Korea has an extensive history of vague threats against nations it deems enemies for no reason other than their concern that the Kim leadership–both Kim Jong-un and his father, Kim Jong-il–were less than trustworthy with nuclear weapons. Last March, Kim boldly threatened he would “settle accounts” with the United States sooner rather than later.
Even in the context of the rhetoric of North Korean despots, this year’s New Year’s address appears especially aggressive, as it makes mention of threats within, as well as without, the nation. State news agency KCNA has not published this year’s speech, instead opting for Kim’s words on January 1, 2013, which were much tamer. Last year, Kim congratulated South Korea on chiming in the new year and extended greetings to those “yearning” for reunification under his rule. Having been closer to the death of Kim Jong-il, that speech was dedicated as much to his memory as to any talk of political victories for the current leader.