Defense chief warns N. Korea’s reckless provocations will become ‘prelude to destruction’

– North Korea should be made to realize that provocative acts threatening South Korea will only serve as a prelude to its own destruction, Defense Minister Shin Won-sik said in a New Year’s Day message Monday.

Shin made the remark after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un defined inter-Korean ties as those of “two states hostile to each other” and called for stepped-up preparations to “suppress the whole territory of South Korea.”

Kim also said it is a mistake to regard the South as the partner of reconciliation and reunification.

“We must make North Korea feel in their bones that reckless provocative behavior threatening the Republic of Korea will soon become a prelude to destruction,” Shin said in the message, referring to South Korea by its official name.

Shin said North Korea’s provocative threats will continue in the new year, citing the results from the North’s party meeting, and called for strengthened readiness.

“In this grave security situation, the military needs to strengthen its readiness posture to overwhelm the enemy,” he said. “Only ‘powerful strength’ can maintain ‘real peace,’ not words, paper or vain delusion.

“If the enemy undertakes a provocation, let’s completely crush their willingness and capabilities for additional provocations by punishing them immediately, strongly, and until the end.”

Later Monday, South Korea conducted live-fire artillery drills, the Army said.

About 330 troops of the 3rd Infantry Division Artillery Brigade fired about 150 artillery rounds during the drills at a firing range in a central front-line region based on a scenario where the enemy first undertakes firepower provocations, the Army said.

“Through the first artillery firing exercises of the new year, we once again confirmed our readiness and capability to immediately retaliate at the scene in the event of enemy provocations,” Capt. Baek Jong-chan said in a statement.

On Sunday, the defense ministry warned the North over its plans to build up more strategic weapons, saying the Kim regime will face its end if Pyongyang attempts to use nuclear weapons against the South.

The isolated regime has continued efforts to push forward with its weapons programs, launching intercontinental ballistic missiles five times last year.