SEOUL, April 26 (Reuters) – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stated on Tuesday, while witnessing a massive military parade that featured intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and other weaponry, that the country will accelerate the development of its nuclear arsenal.
The parade took place Monday night as part of North Korea’s armed forces’ establishment anniversary festivities, according to state news agency KCNA. It comes as Pyongyang has increased weapons testing and military shows in the face of delayed denuclearization talks with the US and a new conservative government in South Korea.
Officials from the United States and South Korea say there are evidence of new building at North Korea’s only known nuclear test site, which has been closed since 2018, implying Pyongyang is preparing to resume nuclear weapons testing.
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“According to KCNA, Kim said, “The Republic’s nuclear force must be ready to perform its responsible task and unique deterrence at any time.”
The North’s nuclear force’s primary mission is to deter war, but that may not be its only purpose, he added.
“If any force seeks to intrude on our nation’s core interests, our nuclear forces will be forced to carry out their second mission unexpectedly,” Kim added.
According to KCNA, the parade showcased North Korea’s largest known ICBM, the Hwasong-17. Last month, the huge missile was test shot for the first time, but South Korean officials suspect that efforts to perform a comprehensive test resulted in an explosion over Pyongyang.
The Hwasong-17, as well as what seemed to be hypersonic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), among other weaponry on trucks and launching vehicles rolling through crowds of flag-waving watchers and participants, were photographed by North Korea’s Rodong Sinmun newspaper.
Along with tens of thousands of goose-stepping troops yelling “long life” to Kim Jong Un, the procession comprised rows of conventional weapons such as artillery, rocket launchers, and prototype tanks.
United Nations Security Council resolutions prohibit North Korea from developing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, as well as imposing sanctions on the country.
On April 16, Kim oversaw the launch of what state media described as short-range missiles capable of delivering tactical nuclear bombs.
Sung Kim, the US envoy on North Korea, stated during a visit to Seoul last week that the allies will “act appropriately and firmly to provocative behaviour,” while also emphasising his desire to talk with North Korea “anywhere without restrictions.”
North Korea has stated that it is open to diplomacy, but has dismissed US overtures as disingenuous in light of what Pyongyang perceives as “hostile policies” with the South, such as sanctions and military drills.