North Korean leader Kim Jong-un justified his country’s recent threat to resume its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and nuclear tests by arguing that the United States has displayed hostility in recent months, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
During a North Korean Politburo meeting on Thursday, Kim claimed that America had crossed a “danger line” and that a response was needed. The group of high-level officials resolved to develop a plan that would “more reliably and effectively increase our physical strength for defending dignity, sovereign rights, and interests of our state.”
Kim and the Politburo’s other members strongly objected to continued military exercises between South Korea and the United States. Pyongyang has repeatedly criticized the United States in recent years for providing military assistance to South Korea.
“In the last few years alone after the DPRK-U.S. summits the U.S. held hundreds of joint war drills which it committed itself to stop and conducted tests of all kinds of strategic weapons, while shipping ultra-modern attack means into south Korea and nuclear strategic weapons into the region around the Korean peninsula, seriously threatening the security of our state,” the KCNA statement read.
Although North Korea has not conducted any known nuclear or ICBM tests since the fall of 2017, the Politburo suggested that it might resume one or both of these activities in response to perceived American and South Korean pressure. The Politiburo threatened that it would “reconsider in an overall scale the trust-building measures that we took on our own initiative on a preferential ground and … promptly examine the issue of restarting all temporarily-suspended activities.”
Kim had originally agreed to suspend further nuclear tests in 2018 after a meeting with former President Donald Trump. In 2019, after the two leaders’ summit in Vietnam ended with no concessions from either side, Kim indicated that Pyongyang no longer considered itself obligated to maintain the suspension.
Despite Kim’s statement, no further nuclear tests have been conducted. However, North Korea has already conducted several non-ICBM missile tests in 2022, including the launch of an alleged hypersonic missile. North Korea’s claim to have tested a hypersonic weapon has been met with skepticism from some experts.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.