PRESTON, England: North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un is continuing to ramp up his focus on nuclear weapons and taking a more aggressive military stance towards his neighbour South Korea.
In his 2023 year-end speech, in which he outlined his plans for 2024, Kim said inter-Korean relations had become “a relationship between two hostile countries and two belligerents at war”. For years Kim’s policy has been to attempt to reunify the two countries, which were separated in 1953 after the end of the Korean War. A tight military border has made it almost impossible for ordinary people to pass in or out of North Korea.
The North Korean leader also announced a plan to launch three new military spy satellites in 2024, highlighting the country’s continued focus on its space and military programmes.
In the first few days of January, state sources released photographs of his visit to a missile launcher factory, and Kim was reported as saying North Korea needed to “prepare for war”.
In statements that showed Kim’s increasingly aggressive rhetoric, he is reported as saying that he “judged the Republic of Korea clan to be our main enemy” and North Korea must keep “continuously stockpiling unparalleled overwhelming power”, due to growing hostilities with South Korea.
Kim’s new year’s plan was followed a few days later by North Korea firing around 200 artillery shells towards Yeonpyeong island in South Korea. Over the days that followed it fired more shells towards South Korea’s west coast.
During her new year’s greetings to South Korea, Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, who is seen as an increasingly powerful figure, issued a statement which appeared to support the pursuit of further nuclear capabilities.
This has prompted renewed discussions among experts over the possibility of North Korea conducting a seventh nuclear test. The last nuclear test that it conducted was in 2017.
In 2022, North Korea revised its constitution to declare itself a nuclear state, and in 2023, North Korea recorded a record number of nuclear weapons tests, causing concern in South Korea and the United States.