North Korea’s Korean Central New Agency reported on Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un presided over an enlarged meeting of the Workers’ Party’s Central Military Commission. The agency quoted Kim as saying, “The meeting presented new policies to further strengthen nuclear war deterrence of the country and put strategic weapons on a high alert operation.” Important measures that will critically increase the fire power and artillery capabilities of the People’s Army have been taken as well,” the news outlet added.
It is still unknown what the North calls “new policies” are, but Pyongyang has significantly escalated its threat towards the outside world through the announcement. Thus far, North Korea has been referring to “People’s Army” and “Revolution Forces” when it said of “high alert operation.” However, Pyongyang specifically mentioned “strategic forces,” or strategic weapons including nuclear weapons and missiles this time. The announcement is believed to suggest that the North has put in place new guidelines that go one step further from constant readiness to mobilize nuclear deterrence, which it warned of at the Workers’ Party’s full meeting late last year, to readiness to operate nuclear missiles loaded and targeted to enable its military to launch them immediately anytime.
North Korea is having its nuclear missiles targeted at not only the U.S. but also South Korea through ‘the ‘important measures that increase its artillery unit’s striking capabilities.’ The North’s intent to renew external threat is also revealed through its military personnel reshuffle in which Ri Byong Chol, a key figure in its development of nuclear weapons and missiles, and Park Jong Chon, a former commander of the artillery command, were promoted. Pyongyang has thus revealed its hidden intention to resume programs of provocations against the U.S. and South Korea at all fronts by demonstrating its short-range tactical weapons, including ultra-large multiple rocket launchers along with mid- to long-range missiles loaded with nuclear warheads.
Conflicts between the U.S. and China have been escalating to an unprecedented level in recent weeks. With the U.S. presidential election in November drawing nearer, President Donald Trump’s America First foreign policy will further intensify its hostility further against China, which could bring the two superpowers to the crisis of military conflict. Pyongyang has always been using such periods of confrontation and separation as opportunities to demonstrate its international presence. Chances are high that the North will repeat its old practice of escalating tension to the maximum level through external threats and provocations, and shifting the course dramatically to start negotiations right before collapsing.
Sunday marked the 10th anniversary of South Korea’s May 24 sanctions against the North that were taken after the sinking of the South Korean naval corvette Cheonan by Pyongyang. The incumbent South Korean government said it will more proactively push for inter-Korean exchange and cooperation, saying that the May 24 sanctions have already lost its effectiveness. Instead of responding amicably to such overtures, Pyongyang is responding with an even bigger external threat. The only thing Kim Jong Un has in mind right now is to find an opportunity to make provocation anytime in whatever form. Despite such moves, Seoul is blindly sending overtures without giving any word of warning against Pyongyang. It is feared that Seoul’s such behaviors may end up helping North Korean leader Kim miscalculate more seriously and fall into delusion.