North Korea to launch new satellites, build drones

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North Korea vowed to launch three new spy satellites, build military drones, and boost its nuclear arsenal in 2024 as leader Kim Jong Un said US policy is making war inevitable, state media reported on Sunday.

Kim lashed out at Washington in lengthy remarks wrapping up five days of ruling party meetings that set economic, military and foreign policy goals for the coming year.

“Because of reckless moves by the enemies to invade us, it is a fait accompli that a war can break out at any time on the Korean peninsula,” he said, according to state news agency KCNA.

He ordered the military to prepare to “pacify the entire territory of South Korea,” including with nuclear bombs if necessary, in response to any attack.

Kim’s speech comes ahead of a year that will see pivotal elections in both South Korea and the United States.

Experts predict North Korea will maintain a campaign of military pressure for leverage around the US presidential elections in November, which could see the return of former President Donald Trump, who traded in both threats and historic diplomacy with Kim.

“Pyongyang might be waiting out the US presidential election to see what its provocations can buy it with the next administration,” said Leif-Eric Easley, professor of international studies at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

President Joe Biden’s administration says it is open to talks, but it imposed new sanctions as North Korea pushed ahead with more missile tests banned under United Nations’ sanctions.

South Korea’s defence ministry condemned Pyongyang’s plans to press ahead with its nuclear ambitions.

“If North Korea attempts to use nuclear weapons against us, we will retaliate overwhelmingly by utilizing the dramatically strengthened extended deterrence of the ROK-US alliance and the three-axis system, and the Kim Jong-Un regime will face its end,” the defense ministry said in a statement.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry said in a statement analyzing the KCNA report that “further provocation is always possible to highlight North Korea’s presence ahead of the US presidential election”.

“(North Korea) could maintain its hard line stance against the U.S. and anti-American, anti-imperialist solidarity, and also seek opportunities to turn the situation around at the same time.”