North Korea suggests it may resume nuclear tests amid tensions with US

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In this photo provided by the North Korean government, leader Kim Jong Un attends a meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party in Pyongyang on 19 January (AP)
In this photo provided by the North Korean government, leader Kim Jong Un attends a meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party in Pyongyang on 19 January (AP)

North Korea has threatened to resume its nuclear and ballistic missile tests and prepare for “long term confrontation” with the US, state media reported on Thursday.

The decision was taken at a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea on Wednesday, called by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, according to state media Korean Central News Agency.

The meeting came a week after the US imposed fresh sanctions in the wake of four ballistic missile tests carried out by North Korea this month.

“The hostile policy and military threat by the US have reached a danger line that cannot be overlooked any more,” state media said.

At the meeting, the politburo ordered a reconsideration of trust-building measures and “promptly examining the issue of restarting” all temporarily-suspended activities, possibly referring to North Korea’s nuclear and inter-continental ballistic missile programs.

It also said that the North should “make more thorough preparation for a long-term confrontation with the US imperialists” and “increase our physical strength for defending” the rights and interests of the nation, according to state media.

The latest threat came just hours before a closed-door UN Security Council meeting to discuss Pyongyang’s recent ballistic tests.

A White House National Security Council spokesperson said that Washington would continue its efforts in coordination with the international community to prevent advances in North Korea’s weapons programmes.

“We remain prepared to engage in serious and sustained diplomacy without preconditions to make tangible progress,” the spokesperson added.

North Korea’s nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests have been suspended since 2018 when Mr Kim imposed a self-imposed moratorium as he began talks with then US president Donald Trump.

However, negotiations have been stalled since 2019, when the US rejected North Korea’s demand for relief in relation to major sanctions in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear weapons.

It had promised to boost its nuclear arsenal at the end of 2019 but Mr Kim’s plans were put on hold with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the resultant strict lockdown that he imposed.

Experts said that the new threats could be an attempt by North Korea to exert pressure on the Biden administration to provide relief from sanctions as the country reels from an economic crisis amid strict border lockdowns.

In September 2017, North Korea conducted its sixth and last test of a nuclear explosive device while its last launch of an ICBM was in November 2017.

Additional reporting by agencies

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