North Korea threatens to resume nuclear and ICBM testing

Kim Jong-un
Image caption,Mr Kim warns he’s got a new strategic weapon up his sleeve

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has said he is ending the suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests put in place during talks with the US.

Mr Kim also said his country would soon introduce “a new strategic weapon”.

But he left a door open for dialogue, and said the scope of any testing would depend on the US’s “attitude”.

The momentum of the past few years has stalled, as Washington refuses to lift sanctions until Pyongyang fully abandons its nuclear programme.

The North conducted several smaller weapons tests late in 2019, in what was seen as an attempt to pressure the US into making concessions.

But the self-declared moratorium on nuclear tests and tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could reach the US mainland had been one of the foundations of the negotiations with Washington.

Mr Kim’s comments came at the end of a four-day gathering of party leaders in Pyongyang, an unusual event for this time of the year.

On 1 January, state media reported him as saying North Korea was no longer bound by the self-declared moratorium, as the US continued joint military drills with South Korea and had stepped up their sanctions.

“Under such condition, there is no ground for us to get unilaterally bound to the commitment any longer, the commitment to which there is no opposite party, and this is chilling our efforts for worldwide nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation,” news agency KCNA quoted him as saying.

He threatened that “the world will witness a new strategic weapon” from the North “in the near future”, while giving no further details.

Projectile being fired from a mobile launcher in North Korea - undated image via KCNA
Image caption,North Korea tested several smaller missiles in 2019

Mr Kim’s comments to the party meeting also admitted that sanctions have hit the economy and were unlikely to be lifted soon, warning that North Koreans will have to “tighten our belts”.

The North Korean leader did not, however, mention Donald Trump or South Korea by name, seen by observers as a toning-down of language compared to the aggressive rhetoric of recent months.

The comments were “notable for falling short of directly tearing up the April 2018 moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear tests”, Chad O’Carroll of North Korea analysis site NK News told the BBC.

“Instead, Mr Kim’s remarks implied that such resumed testing will be contingent on US actions in the weeks and months ahead.”

Mr Kim’s published comments appear to have taken the place of his usual New Year’s Day speech .

Previous addresses have signalled changes in policy direction to Pyongyang’s international adversaries and this year’s comments appear to have a similar role.

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