North Korean leader Kim Jong Un laid out unspecified goals to further strengthen his military power next year at a meeting of top politicians, state media reported Wednesday, in an indication that he will continue the his provocative display of arms.
Kim’s statement came as animosities with rival South Korea rose sharply this week, as the South accused the North of flying drones across the rivals’ border for the first time in five years. North Korea has already conducted a record number of missile tests this year in what experts call an attempt to modernize its arsenal and increase its power in future relations with the United States.
During Tuesday’s session at the ongoing plenary meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party, Kim analyzed the new security challenges in international politics and on the Korean Peninsula and clarified the principles and directions to be adopted in foreign relations and fighting against enemies to protect national interests and sovereignty. according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
Kim “outlined new key goals to strengthen self-sufficient defense capability to move forward in 2023 under the multilateral change situation,” KCNA said, without giving further details.
Some observers say the new targets could be related to Kim’s push to expand his nuclear arsenal and introduce a range of high-tech weapons systems such as multi-warhead missiles, a more agile long-range weapon, a spy satellite and advanced drones. They say Kim would eventually want to use his enhanced nuclear capability to force his rivals to accept the North as a legitimate nuclear state, a status he would consider essential to lifting international sanctions on his country.
On Monday, South Korea’s military fired warning shots and launched fighter jets and helicopters, after detecting what it called five North Korean drones violating the South’s airspace. South Korea also flew its own surveillance assets, in a likely reference to unmanned drones, across the border into North Korea in response.
South Korea’s military said it had failed to shoot down the drones and offered a public apology for causing security problems. President Yoon Suk Yeol called for strong air defense and high-tech stealth drones to better control North Korea.
Some experts say the North Korean drone flights may have been designed to test the preparedness of South Korea and the United States and neutralize an earlier agreement to reduce inter-Korean tension. They say North Korea likely evaluated its drones as a cheap but effective method of stirring up security concerns and internal division in South Korea.
Yoon, a conservative who took office in May, said on Tuesday that South Korea has had few anti-drone drills since 2017, the year his liberal predecessor Moon Jae-in was inaugurated. In an apparent effort to blame the alleged lax air defense system on Moon’s policy of engagement with North Korea, Yoon said that “I think our people must have seen well how dangerous a policy that would be based on the good faith and the (peace) agreements of the North.”
Yoon’s comments sparked a backlash from Moon’s liberal opposition Democratic Party, which accused the president of trying to shift responsibility for the failure of his government’s security policy to someone else.
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