North Korea said it will bolster its defense against the United States and evaluate “restarting all temporally suspended activities,” according to state media KCNA on Thursday.
The announcement is a possible reference to its self-imposed moratorium on testing nuclear weapons, which has been in place since 2017.
Though Pyongyang is barred from testing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons under international law, it has continued developing the weapons in violation of the ban.
In a report about a Politburo meeting held on Wednesday, KCNA reported the “hostile policy and military threat by the US have reached a danger line that can not be overlooked any more,” and acknowledged the need to prepare for “a long-term confrontation” with the US.
The report said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has instructed officials to bolster ways to “efficiently control the hostile moves of the US” and reconsider trust-building measures with the US.
“It gave an instruction to a sector concerned to reconsider in an overall scale the 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,” KCNA reported.
The South Korean military is closely monitoring North Korea’s activities following Thursday’s report, according to Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff spokesman Kim Jun-rak.
It comes as North Korea has ramped up its missile tests during the month of January. Last week, the US announced sanctions on five North Korean individuals and one entity supporting the regime’s ballistic missile related programs.
North Korea called the new sanctions “foolish” and said the Biden administration “persists in maneuvers to deprive the DPRK of its right to self-defense,” KCNA said.
On Monday, North Korea conducted its fourth missile test of the year, firing two projectiles into the ocean off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. North Korea said it was test-firing “tactical guided missiles,” which are short-range ballistic missiles.
Monday’s test follows two last week and one a week earlier as Pyongyang continues to pursue its missile program. North Korea claimed to have a successfully test-fired hypersonic missiles on January 5 and 11, KCNA reported.
Diplomacy between the US and North Korea has been halted for more than a year. The Biden administration has tried to reach out to North Korea a handful of times, but there has been no real response.
The regime had repeatedly demanded the US drop its “hostility” against North Korea as a condition to resume dialogue, but North Korea seems to have a different plan for this year.
“Considering North Korea’s position and the situation on the Korean Peninsula in 2022, North Korea’s new weapon test will last for a while,” said Choi Yong-hwan from Seoul’s Institute for National Security Strategy (INSS) said in a report.
Duyeon Kim, adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, said she is not surprised by North Korea’s recent move.
“We knew (it was) just a matter of time. Last January, Kim Jong Un already revealed goals to develop and test new ICBMs among other high-tech weapons as part of his five-year plan,” Kim said.
“It doesn’t matter what the US does or does not do … Pyongyang is squarely focused on meeting its nuclear weapons milestones because of its military imperative to do so.”