North Korea’s Kim Jong-un lays out key goal of military build-up

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un laid out unspecified goals for further strengthening his military next year at a meeting of top political officials, state media reported Wednesday, suggesting he will continue his provocative weapons campaign. .

Kim’s statement comes as hostility between South Korea and South Korea has swelled sharply this week after South Korea accused North Korea of ​​flying a drone over its border for the first time in five years. North Korea has conducted a record number of missile tests this year in what experts say is an effort to modernize its arsenal and increase its leverage in future dealings with the United States.

At a plenary meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party on Tuesday, Kim Jong-un analyzed international politics and new security challenges facing the Korean peninsula, and clarified principles and directions to be adopted in foreign relations and fighting against enemies to protect national interests and sovereignty , according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

Kim Jong-un “proposed a new key goal of strengthening self-reliant defense capabilities in the context of multilateral changes in 2023,” KCNA said, without elaborating.

Some observers said the new target could be related to Kim’s push to expand his nuclear arsenal and introduce a raft of high-tech weapons systems, such as multiple-warhead missiles, a more flexible long-range weapon, a spy satellite and advanced drones. They say Kim’s ultimate goal is to use his enhanced nuclear capabilities to force his rivals to accept North Korea as a legitimate nuclear state, a status he sees as crucial to lifting international sanctions on his country.

On Monday, the South Korean military fired warning shots and deployed fighter jets and helicopters after spotting what it said were five North Korean drones violating South Korean airspace. In response, South Korea has also sent its own surveillance assets, likely referring to drones, across the border into North Korea.

The South Korean military said it failed to shoot down the drone and issued a public apology for causing safety concerns. President Yoon Hee-yeol has called for enhanced air defense and high-tech stealth drones to better monitor North Korea.

Some experts said North Korea’s drone flights could be aimed at testing the readiness of South Korea and the United States and negating previous agreements to ease tensions between the two Koreas. North Korea may see its drones as a cheap but effective way to sow security unease and domestic divisions in South Korea, they said.

Conservative Yoon, who took office in May, said on Tuesday that South Korea had conducted little counter-drone training since 2017, the year his liberal predecessor Moon Jae-in took office. Yoon apparently tried to attribute the alleged laxity of the air defense system to Moon Jae-in’s policy of engagement with North Korea, saying: “I think our people must be well aware of how dangerous a policy of relying on North Korea’s sincerity and (peace) agreements would be.”

Yoon’s comments sparked a backlash from Moon’s liberal opposition Democratic Party, which accused the president of trying to shift the blame for his administration’s security policy failures to others.

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