North Korean leader Kim Jong-un called for a constitutional change designating South Korea as the number one hostile state.

In a speech broadcast by the state-run KCNA news agency on Tuesday, Kim Jong-un expressed disbelief in the possibility of reunification. He accused South Korea of attempting regime change and promoting unification through stealthy means. The North Korean leader also highlighted that his government does not desire war. However, he stressed that he has no intention to avoid a war either.

Kim Jong-un’s statement marks a departure from decades of official policy that emphasised reconciliation and unification as the ultimate goal.

North Korea also closed down three key agencies responsible for unification and inter-Korean tourism. The agencies include the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification, the National Economic Cooperation Bureau, and the Mount Kumgang International Tourism Administration.

The North Korean assembly also declared that the reunification of Korea is impossible with the Republic of Korea, South Korea’s official name. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol condemned Kim’s comments. He accused Pyongyang of being anti-national for labelling the South as a hostile country. President Yoon also criticised North Korea’s recent missile launch and live-fire exercises near the maritime border. He warned of potential retaliation on a multiplied scale for provocations.

Analysts speculate that the North Korean leader’s ‘hostile state’ statement might justify the use of nuclear weapons in any future conflict. Kim Jong-un warned that a war would decimate South Korea. He added that this would be a defeat for its ally, the US, which has around 30,000 troops stationed in the country.

A report published in the United States suggests that the current danger is more severe than at any time since the early days of the Korean War in 1950. Some analysts draw parallels between Kim Jong-un’s recent actions and that of his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, in 1950.

Kim Jong-un had already brought up the hostility reference at a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party late last year.