North Korea stated on Thursday that it will consider restarting “all temporarily-suspended activities” it had postponed during its negotiations with the Trump administration, implying that it may resume nuclear and long-range missile testing.
According to North Korea’s official news channels, Kim Jong Un presided over a Politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party, where officials defined policy goals for “quickly upgrading” the North’s military capabilities in response to the United States‘ “hostile measures.” According to the KCNA, officials were given “instructions” to “reconsider on a broad scale the trust-building steps that we initiated on our own initiative… and to immediately investigate the matter of restarting all temporarily-suspended activities.”
After the Biden administration slapped new sanctions last week over the North’s ongoing missile testing activity, the North’s Foreign Ministry had already warned of greater and more specific retaliation.
In 2018, Kim unilaterally halted nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests as he began diplomacy with then-President Donald Trump in the hopes of leveraging his nuclear weapons for much-needed economic benefits. However, since their second summit in 2019, when the Americans rejected North Korea’s proposal for massive sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear weapons, negotiations have stopped.
In recent months, the North has increased its weapons displays, including four missile launches just this month, as Kim resurrects Pyongyang’s old brinkmanship playbook to extract concessions from Washington and neighbours as he grapples with an economy in shambles due to pandemic-related problems and crippling US-led sanctions over his nuclear ambitions.
In reaction to North Korea’s earlier tests this month, the US Treasury Department imposed penalties on five North Koreans last week for their roles in obtaining equipment and technology for the North’s missile programmes.
For their broader support of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction activities, the State Department imposed sanctions on another North Korean, a Russian citizen, and a Russian business. In response to the North’s ongoing testing, the Biden administration indicated it would seek further UN penalties.
The penalties were announced just hours after North Korean state media reported that Kim oversaw a successful test of a hypersonic missile on Tuesday, the country’s second such test in a week, and claimed that the weapon would considerably boost the country’s “war deterrent.”
On Friday and Monday, the North launched short-range ballistic missiles in apparent retaliation for US sanctions, which came after its Foreign Ministry warned of “stronger and inevitable reaction” if Washington maintained its aggressive approach.