Kim says North Korea in final stage of ICBM test-launch preparations
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said Sunday that his country has entered the final stage of preparations for a test-launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
In his nationally televised New Year’s address, which lasted about 30 minutes, Kim said North Korea has become a “nuclear and military power in the East” following its two nuclear tests in 2016 and pledged to boost its nuclear weapons capability for national defence.
Kim also urged the United States to scrap its “anachronistic, hostile policy” toward Pyongyang.
Since Donald Trump’s victory in the US presidential election in November, North Korea has been largely inactive, refraining from military provocations in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
North Korea observers assume Kim’s regime is taking a wait-and-see approach to the United States and its allies until Trump takes office on January 20 and his administration’s foreign policy positions become clearer.
North Korea has been the subject of severe UN sanctions banning it from developing or testing nuclear and ballistic missile technologies.
But last year alone it test-fired more than 20 ballistic missiles and conducted two nuclear tests, most recently in September, which was its fifth and largest.
North Korea is planning to hold a series of events in 2017 to recognise and heap praise on the Kim family’s three generations in power.
In his New Year’s address in 2016, Kim said he will seek improved relations with South Korea and suggested a readiness to engage in talks with Seoul.
However, less than a week later, North Korea shocked the world with its first nuclear test in three years, claiming that it was a successful and unprecedented miniaturised hydrogen bomb detonation.
North Korea has said the scheduled 2017 celebrations will coincide with the fifth anniversary of Kim Jong-un becoming the country’s top leader, the 105th year since its late founder, Kim Il-sung, was born, and what would have been the 75th birthday of Kim Jong-il, who died of heart failure in late 2011.
It has said the celebrations will start in earnest from Kim Jong-un’s birthday on January 8.
In 2013, Kim became the first North Korean leader in nearly 20 years to give a speech on New Year’s Day and he has done so every year since.
His father Kim Jong-il never delivered a New Year’s address during his 17-year rule. His message was instead carried in the form of an editorial in North Korea’s major newspapers.