North Korea threatens US with nuclear weapons tests: Kim reconsiders moratorium

NNorth Korea has indirectly threatened the United States with a new nuclear weapons test or the launch of an ICBM. This follows an instruction from the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea to “immediately consider resuming all temporarily suspended activities.” The temporarily suspended activities probably mean the moratorium imposed by ruler Kim Jong-un in April 2018 on testing nuclear weapons and ICBMs.

Friederike Böge

Political correspondent for China, North Korea and Mongolia.

According to state media reports on the Politburo meeting published on Thursday, responsible authorities were instructed to “fundamentally reconsider the confidence-building measures that we have taken on our own initiative as a concession”.

Fewer refugees than before the pandemic

Kim Jong-un made the concession to a 2018 test moratorium a week before his first meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and two months before his first summit with then-US President Donald Trump. In May 2018, North Korea blew up several tunnel entrances at its nuclear test site. However, experts assume that the site can be reactivated. Kim Jong-un justified the moratorium with the fact that Pyongyang had sufficiently demonstrated its nuclear capacity. At the end of 2019, however, the ruler said that he no longer felt bound by the test stop he had declared. With the current threat, Pyongyang is apparently trying to increase pressure on the government of President Joe Biden, who has paid little attention to North Korea since he took office a year ago.

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The Politburo, led by Kim Jong-un, accused Washington of equipping South Korea with “ultra-modern offensive weapons” and thus endangering North Korea’s security. At the same time, America is “ruthlessly” contesting the country’s right to self-defense. This refers to America’s efforts to persuade the UN Security Council to take further punitive measures against North Korea.

South Korea, meanwhile, said only 63 North Korean refugees made their way south last year, including 23 women. Before the pandemic began in 2019, there were more than a thousand. The main reason for the low number last year is probably the strict controls at the China-North Korea border due to the pandemic.