North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country will launch three additional military spy satellites, build more nuclear weapons and introduce modern unmanned combat equipment in 2024, as he called for “overwhelming” war readiness to cope with U.S.-led confrontational moves, state media reported Sunday.
Kim’s comments, made during a key ruling Workers’ Party meeting to set state goals for next year, suggest he’ll continue a run of weapons tests to expand his arsenal amid long-dormant diplomacy with the United States. Observers say Kim would ultimately hope to use his boosted nuclear capability to wrest greater outside concessions if diplomacy resumes.
During the five-day meeting that ended Saturday, Kim said moves by the United States and its followers against North Korea have been unprecedented this year, pushing the Korean Peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.
“The grave situation requires us to accelerate works to acquire overwhelming war response capabilities and thorough and perfect military readiness to suppress any types of provocations by the enemies at a stroke,” Kim said, according to KCNA.
Kim set forth plans to fire three more military spy satellites next year in addition to the country’s first reconnaissance satellite launched in November. He also ordered authorities to press ahead with work to manufacture more nuclear weapons and develop various types of modern unmanned combat equipment such as armed drones and powerful electronic warfare devices, KCNA said.
Kim has been focused on modernizing his nuclear and missile arsenals since his high-stakes nuclear diplomacy with then-President Donald Trump broke down in 2019 due to wrangling over international sanctions on the North. Since last year, Kim’s military has test-fired more than 100 ballistic missiles, many of them nuclear-capable weapons targeting the mainland U.S. and South Korea, in violation of U.N. bans.
The United States and South Korea responded by expanding their military exercises and deploying U.S. strategic assets such as bombers, aircraft carriers and a nuclear-armored submarine. North Korea calls the moves U.S-.led invasion rehearsals.
South Korea’s spy agency said last week that North Korea will likely launch military provocations and cyberattacks ahead of South Korean parliamentary elections in April and the U.S. presidential election in November. The National Intelligence Service said North Korea has conducted nuclear and missile tests and flown a drone across the rivals’ border ahead of the South’s previous parliamentary elections.