North Korea is accelerating its weapons development and preparing for a nuclear test, warn US and South Korean officials
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is stepping up efforts in the country’s arms buildup in response to what he describes as a worsening security environment.
- US and South Korean officials warn another North Korean nuclear test may be imminent
- North Korea has already fired 31 missiles since the start of this year
- China and Russia veto proposed sanctions against North Korea in favor of renewed dialogue
Following a major political conference in Pyongyang, US and South Korean officials warned that North Korea was continuing preparations for another nuclear test.
North Korea has already set an annual ballistic launch record in the first half of 2022, firing 31 missiles in 18 different launch events.
They included the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missile demonstrations in nearly five years.
Mr. Kim’s comments at the conference were published by North Korea’s state-run Korean Central News Agency.
Although the report did not specify any targets for the tests, including the detonation of a nuclear device, the North Korean leader defended his acceleration of weapons development as an exercise in the sovereign right of self-defense, and described more “militant tasks” to pursue in the future.
What’s behind the new missile tests?
North Korea has mastered the art of manufacturing diplomatic crises by provoking Western nations, and the United States in particular, with weapons tests and threats, before finally proposing negotiations aimed at obtaining concessions on international sanctions.
North Korea has a habit of increasing the pressure on Seoul when it doesn’t get what it wants from Washington.
Although the state news agency’s report on the meeting did not include any comments specifically referring to South Korea, it said the participants clarified “the principles and the strategic and tactical directions to be maintained in the fight against the enemy and in the field of foreign affairs”.
While the United States has said it will push for additional sanctions if North Korea carries out another nuclear test, divisions among the permanent members of the UN Security Council blur the prospects for meaningful punitive measures .
Russia and China have vetoed US-sponsored resolutions this year that would have increased sanctions, insisting Washington should focus on reviving dialogue.
Escalating tensions with neighbors
North Korea’s other regional neighbors are also feeling the heightened tension, with Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi making unusually strong remarks that Japan is on the front line as its neighbors try to shift international norms.
“Japan is surrounded by actors who possess or develop nuclear weapons and openly ignore the rules,” Kishi said in Singapore at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s first security meeting.
In May, China and Russia conducted a joint aerial patrol in waters near Japan and Taiwan, their first since Russia invaded Ukraine.
In his speech, Kishi also criticized North Korea and its missile tests, saying the regime could not be allowed to threaten Japan, the region and the international community.