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N. Korea's Kim Jong-un vows to bolster nuclear 'deterrence': Analysis Updated: 2020-05-25 16:58:19 KST

Marking his first appearance in three weeks after a previous absence sparked global speculation about his health, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un convened a key military meeting where he discussed his regime's nuclear capabilities and put his armed forces on high alert.
The North's state media reported over the weekend that Kim vowed to implement "new policies" to boost Pyongyang's nuclear deterrent underlining his decision to turn his back on denuclearization talks with the United States.
Two years after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump's historic summit in Singapore and amid a prolonged deadlock in nuclear negotiations with Washington, what can we read into Pyongyang's pledge to boost its nuclear capabilities?
It's the topic of our News In-Depth with Go Myong-hyun, research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies.

Dr. Go, welcome to the program.

First of all, Kim's attendance at Sunday's meeting of the ruling Workers' Party's Central Military Commission was his first public appearance in three weeks with the regime still on high alert over COVID-19.
A three-week period out of the public eye last month provoked intense speculation about Kim's health before he reappeared to open a fertilizer factory.
Just as the world started noticing he had been gone again for three weeks, he made his reappearance in state media. Is this a mere coincidence?

Amid stalled denuclearization talks with the U.S., the North's state media reported that the meeting discussed measures to bolster North Korea's armed forces and "reliably contain the persistent big or small military threats from the hostile forces." Who are the hostile forces here? Would it be more the U.S. or South Korea, as well?

Two years since the North Korea, U.S. summit in Singapore and following subsequent failure in denuclearization talks, Pyongyang said it's increasing its nuclear war deterrence and adopting "crucial measures for considerably increasing the firepower strike ability of the artillery pieces."
It's a strong message of aggression, isn't it? What are you reading into this?

How is the U.S. taking this in? How is such message being received in Washington?

There are North Korea observers who point out that Kim Jong-un's message from Sunday's meeting coincides with news reports that the U.S. might conduct its first full-fledged nuclear test since 1992.
Can we draw relevance between the two?

What's Washington's intention for pondering such a move?

At Sunday's meeting, Kim Jong-un, who heads the military commission, promoted the ranks of dozens of army generals. What kinds of promotions were made and what's going through the mind of Kim Jong-un as he makes these personnel reshuffles?

Kim Jong-un has said he would unveil a new strategic weapon and would no longer be bound by a self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests.
We haven't seen him follow through with these threats although he did conduct a slew of short-range missile tests. Should we be expecting either a nuclear test or long-range missile launch anytime soon?

Where does this renewed pledge to boost nuclear deterrent by North Korea put South Korea?
South Korea has been calling for inter-Korean cooperation in public health - just last Friday, Seoul's unification minister called for anti-COVID-19 cooperation with North Korea.
No response whatsoever from any of the proposals made by Seoul.

What's your forecast for inter-Korean relations and North Korea, U.S. relations in the coming weeks and for the remainder of this year?

Go Myong-hyun, research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, many thanks as always for your insights this evening. We appreciate it.

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