Kim Jong Un

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told the country's military commanders that the most powerful means must be mobilized to destroy the United States and South Korea if they choose a military confrontation, Reuters reported on Sunday night, citing North Korea’s state news agency.

Kim said the danger of an armed confrontation on the Korean peninsula is fast becoming a reality because of hostile maneuvers by the enemies including the United States, requiring the country to "sharpen the sword" to protect itself.

"If they choose military confrontation and set the fire, we must mobilize all the most powerful means ... to deal a crushing blow and completely destroy them," KCNA state news agency quoted Kim as saying.

The North Korean leader has upped his rhetoric in recent days. In late December, he said Pyongyang would not hesitate to respond with a nuclear attack when an enemy provokes it with nuclear weapons.

Those comments came days after North Korea twice fired ballistic missiles into the sea off the coast of South Korea.

North Korea tested dozens of ballistic weapons in 2022, including its first intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017.

In July, North Korea test-fired a Hwasong-18 solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), in a launch that was supervised by Kim.

In September, North Korea announced it had built a "tactical nuclear attack submarine" as part of its effort to strengthen its naval force.

That announcement came days after the country said it staged a "simulated tactical nuclear attack" drill with mock atomic warheads attached to two long-range cruise missiles that were test-fired into the ocean.