Kim is meeting with senior military officials to review defense work and confirm “crucial and urgent tasks” to expand military capabilities, state media say.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has opened a meeting of top military officials to discuss national defense policies and the continued weapons buildup following a series of ballistic missile tests this year that have sparked tensions with Washington and Seoul.
Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Wednesday that Kim chaired a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Military Commission that began on Tuesday to review defense work during the first half of 2022 and confirm “crucial and urgent tasks” to expand military capabilities and implement key defense policies.
The report did not specify any plans or mention comments critical of the United States or its rival South Korea.
U.S. and South Korean officials have said in recent months that Pyongyang may be preparing to conduct its first nuclear test since 2017, as Kim steps up his brinksmanship to cement North Korea’s status as a nuclear power and negotiate concessions. economic and security issues from a position of strength.
KCNA said the commission began discussing the agenda that was presented, indicating the meeting could continue for days.
Members could discuss progress in weapons development and plans to deploy some of the systems that have been tested in recent months, including a purported hypersonic missile, a long-range cruise missile and the world’s newest intercontinental ballistic missile. country, Cheong Seong-Chang said. , a senior analyst at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea.
North Korea’s intensified testing activity was carried out under a five-year weapons development plan that Kim announced in early 2021 when he revealed an extensive wish list of advanced military assets, including tactical nuclear weapons, nuclear-powered, multi-warhead missiles and long-range solid fuel weapons.
The meeting follows another major political conference earlier this month in which Kim doubled down on his weapons buildup in the face of what he described as an aggravating security environment and set out more “militant tasks” for his military and scientists to carry out. military.
North Korea has already set an annual record for ballistic launches in the first half of 2022, firing 31 missiles in more than 18 different launch events, including its first ICBM demonstrations in nearly five years. South Korea’s military also caught its neighbor to the north firing suspected artillery shells into the sea last week.
US and South Korean officials say North Korea has nearly finished preparations to detonate a nuclear device at its testing range in the northeastern city of Punggye-ri. North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test in September 2017, when it said it detonated a thermonuclear bomb designed for its intercontinental ballistic missiles. However, he said the following year that he dismantled the facility.
North Korea’s unusually fast pace of testing activity underscores Kim’s dual intent to advance his arsenal and pressure US President Joe Biden over long-stalled nuclear diplomacy, experts say.
While the United States has said it would push for additional sanctions if North Korea conducts another nuclear test, divisions among the permanent members of the UN Security Council make the prospects for significant punitive measures unclear.
Russia and China this year vetoed US-sponsored resolutions that would have increased sanctions, insisting Washington should focus on reviving dialogue.