North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un visited a site believed to be manufacturing “a major weapon” amid a record slew of launches this month.
The official Korean Central News Agency released a report on Thursday (Friday local time) that claimed to show the leader as he “inspected an ammunition factory producing a major weapon system” at an undisclosed location alongside an entourage, some of whose faces have been censored in the accompanying footage.
Among those identified with him were the Secretary for Organizational Affairs of the ruling Korean Workers’ Party Central Committee, Jo Yong Won, and the Vice Directors of the Central Committee Department, Kim Jong Sik and Kim Yo Jong, who is also the sister of Kim Jong Un, as well as senior sector officials from the Academy of Defense Sciences.
Kim Jong Un was quoted as saying that “the factory occupies a very important position and duty in the modernization of the country’s armed forces and the realization of the national defense development strategy” and having “indicated the tasks and ways to continually develop the factory into an iconic symbolism”. of the modernity of the country’s defense industry.
“He ardently called on workers, technicians, officials and military inspectors at the factory to join in an all-out campaign to fully implement the ammunition policy laid down at the 8th Party Congress by carrying on the traditions and history of the country’s proud defense industry of safeguarding the Party and the revolution with the production of ammunition, bearing in mind the sole intention of defending the Party’s revolutionary cause with powerful and advanced weapons,” reported KCNA.
A year after the 8th Party Congress held last January, North Korea has demonstrated an array of new military capabilities, including cruise missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, train-launched missiles, and most notably , hypersonic missiles with advanced glide capabilities. In the past month alone, North Korea has fired at least 10 missiles in six launches, the last of which was on Wednesday.
KCNA also reported Thursday that Wednesday’s launch involved “test firing to confirm the power of a conventional warhead for a surface-to-surface tactically guided missile” and Tuesday’s demonstration involved “test firing to update the long-range cruise missile system”. “Both tests involved two missiles each.
The United Nations Security Council has banned North Korea, officially the Democratic Republic of Korea, from carrying out such missile activities, but Pyongyang has rejected the ban. Still, the latest round of testing has drawn criticism from the United States and its allies Japan and South Korea, officially the Republic of Korea, as well as a number of European countries.
“We are aware of the ballistic missile launches and are consulting closely with our allies and partners,” the US Indo-Pacific Command said of Wednesday’s test in a statement. “While we have assessed this event as not posing an immediate threat to U.S. personnel or territory, or to our allies, the DPRK’s recent series of ballistic missile tests underscores the destabilizing impact of the DPRK program. “Illicit Arming of the DPRK. American Commitment to the Defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan Remains Ironclad.”
Following the launch, South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff General Won In-choul met with Commander of US Forces Korea Paul LaCamera for a closed meeting. President Joe Biden has said he is open to diplomacy with North Korea, but he has also pledged to respond to any perceived escalation.
But as the United States sought to impose new sanctions last week, North Korea’s ally China, although also officially opposed to its neighbor’s nuclear arsenal, blocked a push led by Washington to impose new UN Security Council sanctions on Pyongyang.
Beijing’s stance did not seem swayed by Wednesday’s latest launch. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters shortly after the launch that “China has taken note of relevant information” about the test and that its “details are subject to further information”.
“We hope all parties concerned can bear in mind the overall picture of the peninsula’s peace and stability, speak and act with caution, adhere to the good direction of dialogue and consultation, and work together. to promote the political settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue,” Zhao said.
The latest launches come nearly two years after the second and final U.S.-North Korean summit pursued by Kim and then-U.S. President Donald Trump in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. The two sides walked out without a deal to denuclearize Pyongyang in return for sanctions relief from Washington, prompting North Korea to conduct missile tests again.
A follow-up meeting at the heavily fortified inter-Korean border between the pair and South Korean President Moon Jae-in and subsequent working talks also failed to yield an agreement and the dialogue soon fell apart. . And although Kim has not yet resumed testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons, he has repeatedly warned that he may, including with an explicit message delivered last week.
Believing that “the hostile policy and military threat of the United States has reached a danger line that can no longer be ignored despite our sincere efforts to maintain the general trend of detente on the Korean Peninsula” since the first summit United States -North Korea in 2018, the Central Committee’s Political Bureau reportedly, according to KCNA, “unanimously recognized that we should prepare more thoroughly for a long-term confrontation with US imperialism.”
“The Politburo meeting reassigned the political tasks of national defense to immediately strengthen more powerful physical means that can effectively control the hostile movements of the United States against the DPRK that are becoming more serious day by day,” he said. reported KCNA. “He instructed a concerned sector to comprehensively reconsider the confidence-building measures we have taken on our own initiative on preferential ground and to promptly consider the issue of restarting all temporarily suspended activities.”
Talks between North and South Korea have also stalled after a record three joint summits in 2018. In his final months in office, Moon pushed for an end-of-war declaration to put an end to the war. officially ended the conflict that technically left the two Koreas. in a state of war since the 1950s, but no evidence of progress has emerged and aspiring conservative candidate Yoon Suk-yeol has pledged to normalize military exercises with the United States if elected in March in a move that would likely be seen by North Korea as a provocation.
As North Korea continues to defy calls from the United States and its allies to cease its own military actions, the country is expected to assume leadership of the United Nations Conference on Disarmament from May 30 to June 24, in accordance with the alphabetical rotation of the presidency of the body. .