Kim Jong-un rattles saber of nuclear, ICBM tests
North Korea could end a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests, according to state media on Thursday.
The state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the regime is considering “restarting all temporarily-suspended activities” in apparent reference to nuclear tests and ICBM launches, which the North has suspended since late 2017.
The announcement of a possible end to the nearly five year-long suspension was included in a KCNA report on a Wednesday meeting of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party Politburo, the country’s main policymaking body.
During the session, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and other Politburo members said the country is preparing for a “long-term confrontation” with United States, citing a “hostile policy and military threat” that the North sees as having “reached a danger line that cannot be overlooked anymore.”
According to the KCNA, the Politburo reviewed reports of the international situation surrounding the Korean Peninsula and discussed the regime’s approach to the United States.
"The Politburo reassigned the policy tasks for national defence to immediately bolster more powerful physical means which can efficiently control the hostile moves of the United States,” the agency said, adding that the body also “gave instruction to relevant departments to reconsider trust-building measures that we took on our own initiative on a preferential ground, and to promptly examine the issue of restarting all temporally-suspended activities.”
On Tuesday, the United States called for a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to address missile launches by North Korea, according to an anonymous diplomatic source cited by Agence France-Presse.
North Korea has conducted four missile tests since the new year, beginning with two separate tests of what it claimed were hypersonic glide missiles on Jan. 5 and 10, followed by a test of train-launched missiles Jan. 14 and a tactical guided missile test from Sunan Airfield near Pyongyang on Monday.
Successive Security Council resolutions on North Korea’s nuclear and missile weapons programs, the most recent of which was passed in December 2017, prohibit the North from conducting missile or nuclear tests and have imposed increasingly punitive sanctions on Pyongyang, barring it from trading weapons, importing luxury goods or sending workers abroad to earn foreign currency for the regime.
The flurry of missile launches by Pyongyang in the new year have sparked concern from the United States, South Korea and neighboring Japan that the North is honing the capabilities of its missiles through such tests, possibly with an eye to mount them with nuclear warheads.
The North has bristled at the restrictions imposed by the United States and the international community on its nuclear weapons and missile programs, as well as the sanctions to curb such activities, calling the measures infringements on its right to self-defense.
“The Politburo has received reports that the United States is indiscriminately scheming against our country’s just exercise of its sovereign rights,” the KCNA said as it warned that “so long as the hostile entity of US imperialism exists, its antagonistic policy against Korea will continue in the future.”
In response to the KCNA report of a possible end to the testing moratorium, South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, urged the North to return to the negotiating table.
“We will thoroughly prepare for a possible deterioration of the situation while closely coordinating with other countries to keep the situation on the Korean Peninsula under control,” the ministry said in a statement.
The administration of President Moon Jae-in has maintained that the North’s moratorium on nuclear and ICBM testing is a sign that the North is keeping the door open for diplomacy, even as Pyongyang has steadfastly refused to talk with Washington since the collapse of the 2019 Hanoi summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]