North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un convened top security and foreign affairs officials and ordered them to take “substantial and high-profile important state measures,” state media said on Sunday, fueling speculation that he plans to push forward with a threat to explode a nuclear device in defiance of the United Nations.
The meeting of top officials led by Kim underscores Pyongyang’s defiant stance in protest of UN Security Council punishment for a December rocket launch. The dispatch in the official Korean Central News Agency did not say when the meeting took place.
Last week, the Security Council condemned North Korea’s December 12 launch of a long-range rocket. The council, including North Korea ally China, punished Pyongyang with more sanctions and ordered the regime to refrain from a nuclear test — or face “significant action.”
North Korea responded by rejecting the resolution and maintaining its right to launch a satellite into orbit as part of a peaceful civilian space program. It warned that it would keep developing rockets and testing nuclear devices to counter what it sees as US hostility.
A rare statement was issued by the National Defence Commission, the top governing body led by Kim.
Kim’s order for firm action and the recent series of strong statements indicate he intends to conduct a nuclear test in the near future to show “he is a young yet powerful leader both domestically and internationally,” said Chin Hee-gwan, a North Korea expert at South Korea’s Inje University.
North Korea cites a US military threat in the region as a key reason behind its drive to build nuclear weapons. The countries fought on opposite sides of the Korean War, which ended after three years in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
North Korea is estimated to have enough weaponised plutonium for four to eight bombs, according to American nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker, who visited the country’s nuclear complex in November 2010.
Sunday’s KCNA dispatch said the UN punishment indicates US hostility toward North Korea has reached its highest point. North had warned South on Friday of “strong physical countermeasures” if Seoul takes part in the UN sanctions.
Japan launches satellite
Japan on Sunday launched two intelligence satellites amid concerns about the North’s threats. The launch was in the planning stages long before the ongoing tensions with North Korea, but underscores Japan’s wariness Japan began the programme after North Korea fired a long-range missile over Japan’s main island in 1998.