North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said 2024 will be "a new heyday" of war preparations in a pep talk to military commanding officers Sunday, blaming confrontational U.S. and South Korean moves for inflaming tensions, according to state-run media.

Kim told the military commanders at the office building of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang that the Korean Peninsula is "inching closer to the brink of armed conflict," the official Korean Central News Agency said Monday.

If the nation's enemies opt for military confrontation and provocation against North Korea, he said, "our army should deal a deadly blow to thoroughly annihilate them by mobilizing all the toughest means and potentialities without moment's hesitation," according to KCNA.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks to military commanding officers at the office building of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang on Dec. 31, 2023. (KCNA/Kyodo)

In a key meeting of the ruling party that was held through Saturday, Kim said inter-Korean ties have been "completely fixed into the relations between two states hostile to each other and the relations between two belligerent states," with Seoul viewing Pyongyang as its "principal enemy."

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol renewed his commitment in a New Year's Day address to strengthening deterrence capabilities under the U.S. nuclear umbrella to protect his nation from the North's nuclear and missile threats.

Meanwhile, Kim and Chinese President Xi Jinping exchanged New Year messages on Monday, with the two leaders vowing to deepen bilateral ties as this year marks the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, the news agency said.

In his message, the North Korean leader expressed willingness to further promote bilateral exchange and visits "in all fields, including politics, economy and culture," while Xi said Beijing is willing to open "a new chapter" in the two countries' friendship, KCNA said.

Xi said Beijing will "deepen strategic trust, and promote exchange and cooperation" with Pyongyang, thus encouraging bilateral relations to advance and achieve greater development along with the times, the agency said.

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