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North Korea will further “accelerate its nuclear capabilities”

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“We will continue to take steps to strengthen and develop our nation’s nuclear capabilities at an accelerated pace”North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said Monday (April 25th) during a very imposing military parade in the heart of Pyongyang to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army. “But our nuclear forces cannot only be preventive if our fundamental interests are threatened” he added, suggesting that their attacking abilities remain more relevant than ever.

→ READ. North Korea reaffirms its status as a nuclear power

After firing eight salvos of missiles, including one of the intercontinental type on March 24, North Korea warns that in the coming months it will further improve its nuclear and ballistic programs, while, because of these, the country has been under severe international sanctions since 2016. Diplomatic negotiations aimed at convincing the leader to renounce them have stalled since the failure, in 2019, of a meeting between Kim Jong-un and the American president of the time, Donald Trump.

Towards a resumption of nuclear testing?

After two years of total shutdown due to the Covid epidemic, American and South Korean officials and analysts believe that Pyongyang could soon resume its nuclear weapons tests, interrupted since 2017. Satellite images showed signs of activity in a tunnel at the Punggye-ri site, which North Korea says was demolished in 2018 ahead of the first summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. “Kim Jong-un will schedule his future trials well in the coming weeks in order to mark the spirits of his South Korean, Japanese and American neighbors”, assures the French koreanologist Juliette Morillot (1).

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In the days leading up to the anniversary, state media extensively covered the inauguration of new building complexes and showed images of wreaths photographed by people with smartphones. For Leif-Eric Easley, associate professor of international studies at Ewha Women’s University in Seoul, the goal was to “depict an economy that is not only resilient but growing”. The country is however in the grip of a serious economic crisis, aggravated by international sanctions and the strict closure of its borders to protect itself from Covid. “The Kim regime needs other sources of national pride and legitimacy than military parades,” he asserted.

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In South Korea, a president going to war

However, Kim Jong-un’s threatening announcements come in a particular regional context. The next South Korean president, elected on Thursday March 10, will take office on May 10. The very conservative and warmonger Yoon Suk-yeol, 61, has already announced that he will adopt a radically different strategy from that of his pacifist predecessor with regard to the North Korean neighbor.

→ PORTRAIT. South Korea: Yoon Suk-yeol, a new war-mongering president

He has already threatened North Korea with “preemptive strikes”. Faced with a resumption of tensions with its southern neighbor but also with the Americans, Kim Jong-un wants to remind the international community that he has control over his nuclear weapon more than ever. Deterrent, certainly, but which he could use in the event of external aggression…

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