What is North Korea thinking? North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the military to ramp up war preparations in an “offensive war” during the country’s enlarged meeting of the party’s Central Military Commission this week.
According to state-media outlets, Kim discussed plans to conduct additional missile tests and boost weapons production.
This hostile rhetoric comes amidst growing tensions between Pyongyang, Washington and its other adversaries. Pyongyang has carried out multiple provocations in recent months, openly defying international sanctions and criticism alike.
What is North Korea Planning?
In addition to these concerning remarks, Kim also dismissed a handful of military officials and appointed replacements. As noted in the KCNA report, the meeting focused on the “important issue of making the army more thoroughly grid for a war given the grave political and military situation prevailing in the Korean Peninsula.” Photos released show Kim pointed at Seoul in front of uniformed generals. Last month, Kim’s regime threatened to retaliate when the U.S. deployed a nuclear-armed submarine to Seoul for the first time in decades.
The Seoul-Washington partnership is angering Kim
Pyongyang’s anti-American sentiment certainly influences the country’s contempt for American presence and purpose on the peninsula. Later this month, South Korean president Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are set to visit president Biden at Camp David, Maryland. Joint U.S.-South Korean military drills are also scheduled to commence in August. Kim’s “offensive war” broadcast is probably related to what he perceives as a threatening partnership between Seoul and Washington.
In light of Pyongyang’s aggressive posturing, South Korea’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ahn Eun-ju expressed that the Kim regime should focus their efforts on more significant matters, including the safety of its citizens as a typhoon approaches, adding that Seoul is “maintaining a firm readiness posture, and North Korea’s empty threats of force will not work with us.”
North Korea continues to threaten its adversaries
The “offensive war” remarks are not the only threats Pyongyang has issued in recent months.
In July, the Kim regime claimed that any deployment of American bombers, aircraft carriers or missile submarines in Seoul could catalyze a nuclear response.
Since 2022, North Korea has carried out more than 100 missile tests. In addition to launching ballistic missiles capable of reaching Seoul and Tokyo, the country is continuously working on longer-range rockets designed to strike the United States.
After Kim’s sister threatened U.S. spy planes flying routine flights in the international airspace near North Korea, the Hwasong-18 solid-fueled intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) was launched. According to Japan, this weapon flew for more than 70 minutes, representing Pyongyang’s longest-ever missile test.
The Hwasong-18, along with various other weapons, were shown off at what North Korea calls its Victory Day Parade.
The annual event commemorates the armistice that ended the fighting in the Korean War more than seven decades ago. However, no formal treaty ever technically was signed by Seoul or Pyongyang.
South Korea’s current administration would “never’ seek to end the 70-year conflict, according to the country’s Reunification Minister, since a formal termination of the war would jeopardize Pyongyang’s accountability for kidnapping victims and prisoners of war.
Maya Carlin, a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.
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