Galloping through forest atop a white horse, Kim Jong-un stars in a new North Korean propaganda video that touts his economic leadership but ignores a recent spate of sanctions-busting missile launches. Pyongyang started the year by conducting a record seven weapons tests, including firing its most powerful missile since 2017, raising fears Kim could restart long-range or nuclear testing. But the government-produced documentary released this week highlights Kim’s struggle to right the country’s battered economy, which is reeling from a years-long blockade due to the coronavirus and international sanctions. “The overriding theme of the documentary is Kim’s devotion to and hard work for the people,” said Rachel Minyoung Lee, a non-resident fellow with the 38 North programme at the Washington-based Stimson Center. The video is bookended by footage of Kim riding a white horse, a key symbol of the Kim family’s dynastic rule. But “I don’t think we should read too much into the horse scenes, much less link them to North Korea’s recent missile launches and North Korea’s missile test plans,” Lee said. With talks with Washington stalled, North Korea has doubled down on Kim’s vow to modernise the regime’s armed forces, despite reports of soaring food prices and worsening hunger. The propaganda film makes coded reference to the country’s “worst-ever hardships” in 2021, showing footage of Kim carefully making his way down stairs as a narrator describes how his “body has been completely withered away” by hard work. This is an attempt to “humanise” Kim, Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said. “They are trying to paint him as a leader who very much loves his people and, as a result, is often overworked and gets tired,” Yang said. North Korea is preparing to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the birth of late leader Kim Jong-il in February as well as the 110th birthday of founder Kim Il-sung in April. The shots of Kim thundering along on a white horse “are being used to remind viewers that Kim Jong-un is the descendent of Kim Il-sung, who is very much a sacred figure”, Yang said. Other videos of Kim released this week by the state-run KCTV showed Kim, wife Ri Sol-ju and aunt Kim Kyong-hui attending a theatre event. Kim Kyong-hui was rumoured to have died following the execution of her reform-minded husband, Jang Song-thaek, only for her to reappear at a public event six years later. The slew of videos released around the Lunar New Year could be an attempt to highlight Kim’s vitality, Cheong Seong-chang of the Center for North Korea Studies at the Sejong Institute, said. “The horse-riding scenes, in particular, seem to have been produced to show off his health at home and abroad.” “It shows his strong determination and motivation for the new year.”
North Korea on Sunday tested its most powerful missile since 2017, ramping up the firepower for its record-breaking seventh launch this month as Seoul warned nuclear and long-range tests could be next. Pyongyang has never test-fired this many missiles in a calendar month before and last week threatened to abandon a nearly five-year-long self-imposed moratorium on testing long-range and nuclear weapons. With peace talks with the US stalled, North Korea has doubled-down on leader Kim Jong Un's vow to modernise the regime's armed forces, flexing Pyongyang's military muscles despite biting international sanctions. South Korea said Sunday that North Korea appeared to be following a "similar pattern" to 2017 -- when tensions were last at breaking-point on the peninsula -- warning Pyongyang could soon restart nuclear and intercontinental missile tests. North Korea "has come close to destroying the moratorium declaration", South Korea's President Moon Jae-in said in a statement following an emergency meeting of Seoul's National Security Council. South Korea's military said Sunday it had "detected an intermediate-range ballistic missile fired at a lofted angle eastward towards the East Sea." A lofted trajectory involves missiles being fired at a high angle instead of out to their full range. Sunday's ballistic missile was estimated to have hit a maximum altitude of 2,000 kilometers and flown around 800 kilometers for half an hour, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said. That indicated that Pyongyang may have tested its "first Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) since 2017", Joseph Dempsey, an analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies, wrote on Twitter. The last time Pyongyang tested a similar missile was in 2017, when the Hwasong-12 flew 787 kilometers at an apogee of just over 2,111 kilometers. Analysts said at the time that the trajectory indicated that the missile could have flown around 4,500 km if fired on a range-maximizing ballistic trajectory -- putting the US territory of Guam in range. Japan's top government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno said Sunday that the ballistic missile "was one with intermediate-range or longer range." Pyongyang has tested hypersonic missiles twice this month, as well as carrying out four launches of short-range ballistic and cruise missiles. Last week, leader Kim was photographed by state media inspecting an "important" munitions factory that produces "a major weapon system". "Kim has been withholding his appetite for testing and provocations," Soo Kim, an analyst at the RAND Corporation, told AFP. Now however, "the time is ripe, and North Korea's continued missile firing will only throw another wrench into Washington's already high plate of foreign policy challenges," she added. The frenzy of missiles was also aimed at reminding the world that "the Kim regime hears external discussions of its domestic weaknesses," said Leif Easley, a professor at Ewha University. "It wants to remind Washington and Seoul that trying to topple it would be too costly," he added. The string of launches in 2022 comes at a delicate time in the region, with Kim's sole major ally China set to host the Winter Olympics next month and South Korea gearing up for a presidential election in March. Domestically, North Korea is preparing to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the birth of late leader Kim Jong Il in February, as well as the 110th birthday of founder Kim Il Sung in April. With reports of soaring food prices and worsening hunger, an economically-reeling Pyongyang recently restarted cross-border trade with neighbouring China. And ally Beijing, along with Russia, this month blocked the UN Security Council from imposing fresh sanctions in response to the recent tests.
North Korea conducted tests of an upgraded long-range cruise missile and a warhead of a tactical guided missile this week, as leader Kim Jong-un visited a munitions factory producing a “major weapon system,” state media KCNA said yesterday. Tension has been simmering over North Korea’s series of six weapons tests in 2022, among the largest number of missile launches it has made in a month. The launches have triggered international condemnation and a new sanctions push from the United States. An update to a long-range cruise missile system was tested on Tuesday, and another test was held to confirm the power of a conventional warhead for a surface-to-surface tactical guided missile on Thursday, KCNA said. Kim did not attend the tests, but during a visit to the munitions factory, he lauded “leaping progress in producing major weapons” to implement the ruling Workers’ Party’s decisions made at a meeting last month, a separate dispatch said. “The factory holds a very important position and duty in modernising the country’s armed forces and realising the national defence development strategy,” Kim said. KCNA did not specify the weapons or the factory’s location. Kim called for bolstering national defences to tackle an unstable international situation at that party gathering. Last week, North Korea said it would bolster its defences against the United States and consider resuming “all temporally-suspended activities”, hinting at lifting a self-declared moratorium on testing nuclear bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). At the factory, Kim called for “an all-out drive” to produce “powerful cutting-edge arms,” and its workers touted his devotion to “smashing ... the challenges of the US imperialists and their vassal forces” seeking to violate their right to self-defence, calling it “the harshest-ever adversity.” Pyongyang has defended missile launches as its sovereign right to self-defence and accused Washington and Seoul of double standards over weapons tests. No ICBMs or nuclear weapons have been tested in North Korea since 2017 but a spate of short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) launches began amid stalled denuclearisation talks following a failed summit with the United States in 2019. US Department of Defence Press Secretary John Kirby condemned the latest launches as “destabilising,” and called on Pyongyang to “stop these provocations”. The European Union also issued a statement saying the tests posed a threat to international and regional peace and security and undermine efforts to resume dialogue and help the country’s people. Photos released by KCNA showed a thinner-looking Kim wearing a black leather coat and suit in smiles during the factory trip, with the faces of some officials blurred. Jeffrey Lewis, a missile expert at the US-based James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said the factory appeared to be the February 11 plant at the Ryongsong Machine Complex in Hamhung, the country’s second largest city on its east coast, citing similar double column vertical lathes seen in past KCNA images, although repainted. The facility seemed to have been remodelled, but a giant metal tube inside a flow forming machine in a new hall where Kim was seen looked like a motor casing for a KN-23 or other SRBM, Lewis said on Twitter. In Tuesday’s test, two long-range cruise missiles flew 1,800km for 9,137 seconds and hit a target island off the east coast, showing practical combat performance, KCNA said. The two tactical guided missiles tested on Thursday also precisely struck the target and proved the explosive power of their warhead as designed, it said. KCNA photos also showed a long-range missile launched from a transporter-erector-launcher, gushing flame, before sparking a fire on an island. In other images, a shorter-range missile was seen rising into the sky above a cloud of dust and then hitting an island. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it detected both tests, and the short-range missiles travelled for about 190km (118 miles) to an altitude of 20km (12.4 miles). This month alone, North Korea has also tested tactical guided missiles, two “hypersonic missiles” capable of high speed and manoeuvring after lift-off, and a railway-borne missile system. Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said Pyongyang is likely to ratchet up pressure and possibly fire an ICBM or other powerful weapon when it marks the 80th and 110th anniversaries of the birthdays of Kim’s late father and grandfather in February and April, both major holidays in the country. “The ongoing string of tests should be aimed at highlighting the North’s increasingly diverse missile arsenal, and essentially staging a show of force against the United States,” he said.
North Korea fired two cruise missiles into the sea off its east coast yesterday, South Korea’s military said, amid rising tension over a recent series of weapons tests. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff did not specify the missiles’ range or trajectory, but said it was conducting an analysis together with US authorities. The launch was North Korea’s fifth of the year, following tests of a tactical guided missile two “hypersonic missiles” capable of high speed and manoeuvring after lift-off, and a railway-borne missile system. Tension has been growing, with leader Kim Jong-un vowing last week to bolster the military and warning he could lift a self-imposed moratorium on testing atomic bombs and long-range missiles. North Korea has not launched intercontinental ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons since 2017, but began testing a slew of shorter-range missiles after denuclearisation talks stalled following a failed summit with the United States in 2019. The flurry of recent tests sparked a US push for fresh UN sanctions, followed by heated reaction from Pyongyang. The UN Security Council bans North Korea from any launches using ballistic technology, but not cruise missiles. China and Russia have recently called for removing a ban on Pyongyang’s exports of statues, seafood and textiles, and raising a refined oil imports cap. South Korea’s Unification Minister Lee In-young, in charge of cross-border ties, urged the North to return to talks, not escalate further. “While thoroughly preparing for additional tests, we’d like to emphasise again that dialogue and co-operation is the only way to peace,” he told a meeting with foreign diplomats based in Seoul. Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno did not confirm the latest test but said Tokyo would work with neighbours to gather and analyse necessary information. Lee Sang-min, a military expert at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses, said the recent missile volleys could be aimed at building geopolitical tensions and perhaps pushing the United States to come up with a new strategy toward Kim. “Cruise missiles are slower than ballistic missiles and so are regarded as less of a threat, but they hit targets with high precision, something North Korea would continue to develop,” Lee said. North Korea has said it is open to talks, but only if the United States and its allies drop “hostile policy” measures such as sanctions and military drills.
North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) yesterday from an airport in its capital city of Pyongyang, South Korea’s military reported, the fourth test this month to demonstrate its expanding missile arsenal. Japan also reported the launch, with chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno condemning it as a threat to peace and security while China urged all sides to preserve for stability. “We call on relevant sides to keep in mind the overall peace and stability on the peninsula,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing in Beijing when asked about the suspected launch. Nuclear-armed North Korea had already conducted three other missile tests in less than two weeks before Monday, an unusually rapid series of launches. It said two of them involved single “hypersonic missiles” capable of high speed and manoeuvring after launch, while a test on Friday involved a pair of short-range ballistic missiles fired from train cars. Monday’s launch appeared to involve two SRBMs fired east from Sunan Airfield in Pyongyang, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement. North Korea used the airport to test fire the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) in 2017, with leader Kim Jong-un in attendance. The missiles fired yesterday travelled about 380km to a maximum altitude of 42km, the JCS said in a statement. Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said the missiles appeared to have landed in the ocean off North Korea’s east coast and it was evident that North Korea was using the frequent launches to improve its missile technology. “The repeated launching of North Korea’s ballistic missiles is a grave problem for the international community, including Japan,” Kishi told reporters, noting that the tests were a violation of UN Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea from all ballistic missile development. The US military’s Indo-Pacific Command said that the launch did not pose an immediate threat to the United States or its allies, but that “these missile launches highlight the destabilising impact of (North Korea’s ) illicit weapons programme.” The pace of testing suggested that North Korea had enough missiles to feel comfortable about using them on tests, training, and demonstrations, and they reinforced its deterrent credibility by emphasising the volume of its missile force, said Mason Richey, a professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul. North Korea has not tested its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or nuclear weapons since 2017, but after denuclearisation talks stalled in 2019, it began testing a range of new SRBM designs. Many of the latest SRBMs, including the hypersonic missiles, appear designed to evade missile defences. North Korea has also vowed to pursue tactical nuclear weapons, which could allow it to deploy nuclear warheads on SRBMs. “Every tactical missile launch flaunts how little sanctions have constrained the Kim regime, and how the US ... has failed to make North Korea pay a sufficient cost for short-range missile programme development,” Richey said. The latest launches have drawn both condemnation and an appeal for dialogue from a US administration that has imposed new sanctions over North Korean missile launches and is pushing for more. President Joe Biden’s administration imposed its first new sanctions on Pyongyang on Wednesday, and called on the UN Security Council to blacklist several North Korean individuals and entities. It also repeated calls for North Korea to return to talks aimed at reducing tension and persuading it to surrender its arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. North Korea has defended the missile tests as its sovereign right to self-defence and accused the United States of intentionally intensifying confrontation with new sanctions. In a statement before Friday’s tests, the North Korean foreign ministry said that although the United States might talk of diplomacy and dialogue, its actions showed it was engrossed in its policy of “isolating and stifling” North Korea. South Korea’s national security council held an emergency meeting after Monday’s test, with members stressing it was essential to start dialogue as soon as possible to stop the situation from becoming more strained and to restore stability, the presidential Blue House said in a statement. The launches came as North Korea, more isolated than ever under self-imposed border closures aimed at preventing a Covid-19 pandemic, appeared to be preparing to open at least some trade across its land border with China. Freight trains connecting China with North Korea have resumed for the first time since a 2020 coronavirus border lockdown, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday. Zhao Tong, a Beijing-based nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said North Korea had few reasons to hold back its missile development. Leader Kim appeared to have little hope of a breakthrough with the United States, and China’s sympathy for North Korea and antipathy towards the United States could encourage North Korea to think that China was unlikely to support any effort by the international community to censure it for the tests, he added. “North Korea may think this is a safe time to advance its missile development,” Zhao said. Last week, China criticised the new US sanctions but also called on all sides to act prudently and engage in dialogue to reduce tensions.
His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani met at Sheikh Abdullah Bin Jassim Majlis at the Amiri Diwan on Monday with Venezuelan Ambassador Giuseppe Angelo Eufrida Yorio, who called on the Amir to greet him on the occasion of the end of his tenure in the country. The Amir granted Al Wajbah Decoration to the Venezuelan ambassador in recognition of his role in enhancing bilateral relations between Qatar and Venezuela, wishing him success in his future missions, and the relations between the two countries further progress and prosperity. The ambassador expressed his thanks and appreciation to the Amir and to State officials for the cooperation he received that contributed to the success of his work in the country.
* Launch is fourth test in less than two weeks * Tests condemned by Japan as threat to regional peace * South Korea urges talks to defuse tension * Tests demonstrate depth of North Korean arsenal - analyst North Korea fired two suspected short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) on Monday from an airport in its capital city of Pyongyang, South Korea's military reported, the fourth test this month to demonstrate its expanding missile arsenal. Japan also reported the launch, with chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno condemning it as a threat to peace and security while China urged all sides to preserve for stability. "We call on relevant sides to keep in mind the overall peace and stability on the peninsula," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a daily briefing in Beijing when asked about the suspected launch. Nuclear-armed North Korea had already conducted three other missile tests in less than two weeks before Monday, an unusually rapid series of launches. It said two of them involved single "hypersonic missiles" capable of high speed and manoeuvring after launch, while a test on Friday involved a pair of short-range ballistic missiles fired from train cars. Monday's launch appeared to involve two SRBMs fired east from Sunan Airfield in Pyongyang, South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said in a statement. North Korea used the airport to test fire the Hwasong-12 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) in 2017, with leader Kim Jong Un in attendance. The missiles fired on Monday travelled about 380 km to a maximum altitude of 42 km, the JCS said in a statement. Japanese Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi said the missiles appeared to have landed in the ocean off North Korea's east coast and it was evident that North Korea was using the frequent launches to improve its missile technology. "The repeated launching of North Korea's ballistic missiles is a grave problem for the international community, including Japan," Kishi told reporters, noting that the tests were a violation of UN Security Council resolutions that ban North Korea from all ballistic missile development. The US military's Indo-Pacific Command said that the launch did not pose an immediate threat to the United States or its allies, but that "these missile launches highlight the destabilising impact of (North Korea's ) illicit weapons programme". The pace of testing suggested that North Korea had enough missiles to feel comfortable about using them on tests, training, and demonstrations, and they reinforced its deterrent credibility by emphasizing the volume of its missile force, said Mason Richey, a professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul. North Korea has not tested its longest-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or nuclear weapons since 2017, but after denuclearisation talks stalled in 2019, it began testing a range of new SRBM designs. Many of the latest SRBMs, including the hypersonic missiles, appear designed to evade missile defences. North Korea has also vowed to pursue tactical nuclear weapons, which could allow it to deploy nuclear warheads on SRBMs. "Every tactical missile launch flaunts how little sanctions have constrained the Kim regime, and how the US ... has failed to make North Korea pay a sufficient cost for short-range missile programme development," Richey said. The latest launches have drawn both condemnation and an appeal for dialogue from a US administration that has imposed new sanctions over North Korean missile launches and is pushing for more. President Joe Biden's administration imposed its first new sanctions on Pyongyang on Wednesday, and called on the UN Security Council to blacklist several North Korean individuals and entities. It also repeated calls for North Korea to return to talks aimed at reducing tension and persuading it to surrender its arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. North Korea has defended the missile tests as its sovereign right to self-defence and accused the United States of intentionally intensifying confrontation with new sanctions. In a statement before Friday's tests, the North Korean foreign ministry said that although the United States might talk of diplomacy and dialogue, its actions showed it was engrossed in its policy of "isolating and stifling" North Korea. South Korea's national security council held an emergency meeting after Monday's test, with members stressing it was essential to start dialogue as soon as possible to stop the situation from becoming more strained and to restore stability, the presidential Blue House said in a statement. The launches came as North Korea, more isolated than ever under self-imposed border closures aimed at preventing a Covid-19 pandemic, appeared to be preparing to open at least some trade across its land border with China. Freight trains connecting China with North Korea have resumed for the first time since a 2020 coronavirus border lockdown, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday Zhao Tong, a Beijing-based nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said North Korea had few reasons to hold back its missile development. Leader Kim appeared to have little hope of a breakthrough with the United States, and China's sympathy for North Korea and antipathy towards the United States could encourage North Korea to think that China was unlikely to support any effort by the international community to censure it for the tests, he added. "North Korea may think this is a safe time to advance its missile development," Zhao said. Last week, China criticised the new US sanctions but also called on all sides to act prudently and engage in dialogue to reduce tensions.
North Korea tested a railway-borne missile in its firing drills on Friday, state media KCNA said yesterday, amid a US push for fresh sanctions against the isolated state following its recent series of weapons tests. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said two short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) travelled about 430km to a maximum altitude of 36km after being launched eastward on the northwest coast of North Korea. The official KCNA news agency did not specify the missiles’ range, or trajectory, but said a firing drill was held in North Pyongan Province to “check and judge the proficiency in the action procedures of the railway-borne regiment.” The country tested the rail-based system for the first time last September, saying it was designed as a potential counter-strike to any threatening forces. Since New Year’s Day, North Korea has launched three ballistic missiles in an unusually fast sequence of weapons tests. The previous two launches involved what state media called “hypersonic missiles” capable of high speeds and manoeuvring after launch. Hours before the latest test drill, North Korea slammed the United States for pursuing new sanctions in response to its recent missile launches, calling it a “provocation” and warning of a strong reaction. US President Joe Biden’s administration imposed its first sanctions against Pyongyang on Wednesday, and called on the UN Security Council to blacklist several North Korean individuals and entities. North Korea has defended the missile tests as its sovereign right to self-defence and accused the United States of intentionally escalating the situation with new sanctions. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un did not attend the drill. KCNA said the military leadership had ordered the test “at short notice” and the system precisely struck the target set in the east coast with “two tactical guided missiles.” The system “demonstrated high manoeuvrability and rate of hits,” KCNA said, adding its success led to discussions to “set up proper railway-borne missile operating system across the country.” North Korea has been steadily developing its weapons systems, raising the stakes for stalled talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in return for US sanctions relief. South Korean Chung Eui-yong and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the latest launch during their phone call on Saturday and co-ordinated responses to the North’s recent missile tests, the State Department said. Both sides highlighted the importance of maintaining firm combined readiness posture and urged Pyongyang to return to a negotiating table, Seoul’s foreign ministry said. Cheong Seong-chang, director for North Korean studies at South Korea’s Sejong Institute, said the test could be an “instant display of force” to protest against the US sanctions push, noting that it was not planned in advance and unusually took place in the afternoon. “It’s a message that they would take an ‘eye to eye’ approach if Washington presses for sanctions for testing non-long-range missiles,” Cheong said. KCNA released photographs showing a missile trailing a column of smoke and flame as it was launched from the top of an olive-green train in a mountainous area, before arrowing down on a small island, sending up a cloud of smoke and debris as it hit. Despite North Korea’s limited and sometimes unreliable rail network, rail mobile missiles are a relatively cheap and efficient option to improve the survivability of their nuclear forces, making it difficult for enemies to detect and destroy them before being fired, analysts said. Kim Dong-yup, a former South Korea Navy officer who teaches at Seoul’s Kyungnam University, said North Korea appears to have fired KN-23 SRBMs, which were also test fired in September, when they flew 800km. First tested in May 2019, the KN-23 resembles Russia’s Iskander-M SRBM visually, and is designed to evade missile defences and conduct a precision strikes, experts said.
North Korea fired two ballistic missiles yesterday, the South and Japan said, in what would be its third weapons test this month, despite a fresh volley of US sanctions. The latest launches came just hours after Pyongyang warned of a “stronger and certain” reaction to the sanctions on five North Koreans linked to the country’s ballistic missile programme. Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said it had detected two short-range ballistic missiles fired from North Pyongan province, adding they were “analysing the specifications”. The weapons likely “fell outside” Japan’s territorial waters, Tokyo’s Defence Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters, adding that the repeated tests indicated Pyongyang was “aiming to improve its launch technology”. The Friday missiles came hours after Pyongyang accused the US of “provocation” over fresh sanctions imposed this week in response to a recent string of weapons tests. The launches were at 2.41pm and 2.52pm, with the weapons flying a distance of 430km at an altitude of 36km, according to Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. Seoul’s National Security Council expressed “strong regret” over the recent missile launches, saying they “do not contribute to stability on the Korean Peninsula at this important juncture.” Pyongyang debuted a hypersonic missile in September last year, and carried out what it called two successful tests this month, as it looks to add the sophisticated weapon to its arsenal. In response, the United States imposed new sanctions on Pyongyang this week, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying North Korea was likely “trying to get attention” with the missile launches. Pyongyang accused the United States of “intentionally escalating” the situation, saying it had a “legitimate right” to self-defence, a foreign ministry spokesman told state media. If “the US adopts such a confrontational stance, the DPRK will be forced to take stronger and certain reaction to it,” the spokesman said in comments carried by state news agency KCNA early Friday. The timing and location of the Friday launch indicated it was a response to the US sanctions, analysts said. “It was carried out in a rush to signal to the US that it will be a tit-for-tat on sanctions,” said Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korea Studies at the Sejong Institute. Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha Womans University in Seoul said North Korea was trying to “lay a trap” for the US. “It has queued up missiles that it wants to test anyway and is responding to US pressure with additional provocations in an effort to extort concessions,” he said. Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, said Pyongyang was sending a clear message: “North Korea is not going to give up anything when it comes to its weaponry despite the newly imposed sanctions.” Pyongyang has refused to respond to US appeals for talks. At a key meeting of North Korea’s ruling party last month, Kim vowed to continue building up the country’s defence capabilities, without mentioning the United States. Dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang remains stalled, and impoverished North Korea is also under a rigid self-imposed coronavirus blockade that has hammered its economy. These domestic economic problems, and the widespread suffering they are likely causing, could also be a factor motivating Pyongyang’s increasingly aggressive stance. “Pyongyang may think it’s actually beneficial for them to raise tensions on the peninsula... to keep their people loyal to the regime,” defector-turned-researcher Ahn Chan-il told AFP.
Kim Jong-un personally oversaw the successful test of a hypersonic missile, state media said yesterday, and urged North Korea to press ahead with building more “strategic military muscle” despite international sanctions over its nuclear weapons programme. Pictures in state media showed Kim using binoculars to observe the second missile launch by the nuclear-armed nation in less than a week. Hypersonic missiles are listed among the “top priority” tasks for strategic weapons development in North Korea’s five-year plan. After the launch, Kim said North Korea must “further accelerate the efforts to steadily build up the country’s strategic military muscle both in quality and quantity and further modernise the army”, according to KCNA. The Tuesday test, which came as the UN Security Council met in New York to discuss Pyongyang’s weapons programme, sparked swift condemnation, with the US State Department branding it a “threat... to the international community.” It was the third reported North Korean test of a hypersonic gliding missile. The first, which took place four months ago, was followed by one last week. North Korea’s state news agency KCNA said the most recent test demonstrated “the superior manoeuvrability of the hypersonic glide vehicle”. It also claimed it accurately hit a target some 1,000km away. South Korea’s military, which had cast doubt on Pyongyang’s initial claims, said the missile launched on Tuesday had reached hypersonic speeds and showed clear signs of “progress” from last week’s test. The missile flew 700km at an altitude of about 60km at Mach 10 speed, Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said. Hypersonic missiles travel at speeds of at least Mach 5 — five times the speed of sound — and can manoeuvre mid-flight, making them harder to track and intercept. “Everything about this test is a reminder that North Korea is all-in on a new military modernisation campaign,” Ankit Panda of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said on Twitter Wednesday. “Kim’s working his way down his 8th Party Congress wish list and is once again personally guiding tests,” Panda said, referring to a recent meeting of high-level North Korean officials. Russia, the United States and China have all reported successfully testing hypersonic glide missiles. Russia is generally seen as the world leader in the technology. Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said the weapon was not ready for deployment. “Nonetheless, Pyongyang’s ability to threaten its neighbours continues to grow,” he said. The fact that Kim attended the missile test indicates that North Korea is satisfied with the level of progress, said Lim Eul-chul, a professor of North Korean studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul. “Since ... the test was the final verification, additional tests of hypersonic missiles, at least, are not expected for a while,” Lim said. The tests come as North Korea has refused to respond to US appeals for talks. At a key meeting last month of North Korea’s ruling party, Kim vowed to continue building up the country’s defence capabilities, without mentioning the United States. Dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang remains stalled, and the country is under multiple sets of international sanctions over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. The impoverished nation has also been under a rigid self-imposed coronavirus blockade that has hammered its economy.
North Korea has successfully tested a hypersonic missile, state media reported yesterday, in the first major weapons test by the nuclear-armed nation this year. This was the second reported test of what Pyongyang claimed were hypersonic gliding missiles, as it pursues the sophisticated technology despite international sanctions and condemnation. Hypersonic missiles move far faster and are more agile than standard ones, making them much harder for missile defence systems - on which the United States is spending billions - to intercept. The missile fired on Wednesday carried a “hypersonic gliding warhead” that “precisely hit a target 700km away”, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported, without identifying the launcher. The warhead also demonstrated a “new” capability, moving 120km laterally after it detached from the launcher to strike the target, it added. “The successive successes in the test launches in the hypersonic missile sector have strategic significance,” KCNA said. Hypersonic missiles were listed among the “top priority” tasks for strategic weapons in North Korea’s current five-year plan, and it announced its first test - of the Hwasong-8 - in September last year. The Wednesday launch also tested the “fuel ampoule system under winter weather conditions”, according to KCNA. An ampoule system involves a propellant canister attached to the missile when it is manufactured, and could eliminate the need for fuelling it at the launch site. This offers an advantage over ordinary liquid-fuelled missiles, which have to be loaded with propellant on-site just before launch - a time-consuming process that gives an enemy ample opportunity to locate and destroy them. Depending on their design, hypersonic missiles can carry conventional and nuclear warheads, and have the potential to alter the strategic balance. They are generally defined as travelling more than five times the speed of sound, or Mach 5. The KCNA report did not mention the speed at which the missile travelled on Wednesday, and assessments of its performance from other nations have yet to be released. “It looks like the North Koreans identified hypersonic gliders as a military requirement (probably because they perceive this to be effective at dealing with BMD),” tweeted Ankit Panda of the US think tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, referring to ballistic missile defence. “We’d need independent, detailed data to assess how effective these missiles actually are, but taking the two North Korean statements about the Hwasong-8 and this missile at face value, this test appears to have gone better” than the one in September, Panda added. Some experts caution that hypersonic weapons may have only limited advantages, while others warn that if North Korea fully develops the technology, it would pose a serious threat. In the decade since Kim Jong-un took power, his country has made rapid progress in its military technology, at the cost of international sanctions. In 2021, in addition to the hypersonic Hwasong-8, Pyongyang said it successfully tested a new type of submarine-launched ballistic missile, a long-range cruise missile, and a train-launched weapon. The United States, Japan, Canada and Germany condemned Wednesday’s test. “This launch is in violation of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions and poses a threat to... (North Korea’s) neighbours and the international community,” a US State Department spokesperson said Wednesday. Berlin yesterday called on Pyongyang to “accept the offers of talks put forward by the United States and South Korea and to enter into serious negotiations on the dismantling of its nuclear and missile programmes”, according to a German foreign office statement. Dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang remains stalled, following the collapse of talks between Kim and then US president Donald Trump in 2019. Under Trump’s successor Joe Biden, the United States has repeatedly declared its willingness to meet North Korean representatives, while saying it will seek denuclearisation. But Pyongyang has so far dismissed the offer, accusing Washington of pursuing “hostile” policies. North Korea says it needs its arsenal to defend against a US invasion.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in vowed yesterday to use his last months in office to press for a diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea, despite public silence from Pyongyang over his attempts for a declaration of peace between the two sides. “The government will pursue normalisation of inter-Korean relations and an irreversible path to peace until the end,” Moon said in his final New Year’s address before his five-year term ends in May. “I hope efforts for dialogue will continue in the next administration too.” In his own address on New Year’s Eve, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made no mention of Moon’s calls for a declaration officially ending the 1950-1953 Korean War, or of stalled denuclearisation talks with the United States. Moon held multiple summits with Kim, including once in Pyongyang, during a flurry of negotiations in 2018 and 2019, before talks stalled amid disagreements over international demands that the North surrender its arsenal of nuclear weapons, and Pyongyang’s call for Washington and Seoul to ease sanctions and drop other “hostile policies.” Moon is pushing an “end of war declaration” as a way to jumpstart those stalled negotiations and his administration has hinted at backchannel discussions. But North Korea has not publicly responded to the latest push, and the United States has said it supports the idea but may disagree with the South over its timing. “It is true that there is still a long way to go,” Moon acknowledged, but argued that if inter-Korean relations improve, the international community will follow. Moon said his outreach to North Korea had been enabled by a large military buildup that helped make South Korea safer. “Peace is possible on strong security,” he said. The Covid-19 pandemic overshadowed the standoff with North Korea, as Pyongyang put the country into an unprecedented lockdown and Moon faced domestic pressure to tamp down the first major coronavirus outbreak outside of China in early 2020. Since then, South Korea used aggressive tracking and tracing, as well as social distancing rules and a belated but thorough vaccination campaign to keep overall cases and deaths relatively low by global standards.
Former South Korean president Park Geun-hye was released from prison yesterday nearly five years after being convicted of corruption, fuelling debate over whether she would play any role ahead of a March presidential election. Park, 69, was the country’s first democratically elected leader to be thrown out of office when the Constitutional Court upheld a parliament vote in 2017 to impeach her over a scandal that also led to the imprisonment of the chiefs of two conglomerates, Samsung and Lotte. South Korea’s top court in January upheld a 20-year prison sentence imposed after Park was found guilty of colluding with a friend, who is also in jail, to receive tens of billions of won from the companies, mostly to fund her friend’s family and non-profit foundations. President Moon Jae-in granted a special pardon to Park last week, citing her deteriorating health and expressing hope to “overcome unfortunate past history and promote national unity”. Broadcasters showed Park leaving a Seoul hospital, where she had stayed since last month for medical treatment, after correction officials delivered a letter of pardon at midnight. She did not comment but her lawyer has said Park, the daughter of a former military ruler, had offered an apology for causing public concern and thanked Moon for making a “tough decision”. Park’s release comes as her old party, the main opposition conservative People Power Party, and Moon’s Democratic Party are in a tight presidential race. Her imprisonment divided the country, with right-wing, pro-Park groups staging weekly rallies to denounce Moon and his policies and call for Park’s release, until Covid-19 distancing rules stifled the rallies last year. Hundreds of Park’s supporters braved freezing temperatures to flock to the hospital where she was staying late on Thursday to celebrate her release, with more than 1,000 bouquets of flowers arriving. About 200 people held a protest in downtown Seoul against her release, the Yonhap news agency reported. It was not clear if Park would resume any political activity but she said in a memoir released on Thursday that her conviction was politically motivated and she expressed hopes to “meet the people again one day”. People Power’s presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol, who investigated the Park scandal as prosecutor-general, said yesterday he had done his job as a public servant, adding he would like to visit Park when her health improved.
South Korea announced that it will tighten measures to stop the spread of Covid-19, starting from Monday for 4 weeks long. South korea will focus on containing the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus till the end of this year as the country started to enforce tightened social distancing measures amid rising daily infections, South Korean Prime Minster Kim Boo-kyum said during a COVID-19 response meeting in Seoul. "The threat of the omicron variant is becoming apparent," he added. So far, health authorities have confirmed 12 Omicron cases in South Korea, according to (Yonhap) News Agency. Kim called for thorough quarantine inspections on arrivals to the country, while conducting swift contact tracing for the omicron variant. He also said that the government will concentrate on boosting vaccinations, securing hospital beds and expand at-home treatment to alleviate the virus situation.
Former South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan, whose iron-fisted rule of the country following a 1979 military coup sparked massive democracy protests, died on Tuesday at the age of 90, his former press aide said. Chun had multiple myeloma, a blood cancer which was in remission, and his health had deteriorated recently, his former press secretary Min Chung-ki told reporters. He passed away at his Seoul home early in the morning and his body was moved to a hospital for a funeral later in the day. A former military commander, Chun presided over the 1980 Gwangju army massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators, a crime for which he was later convicted and received a commuted death sentence. His death came about a month after coup co-conspirator and succeeding President Roh Tae-woo, who played a crucial but controversial role in the country's troubled transition to democracy, died at age 88. An aloof, ramrod-straight Chun during his mid-1990s trial defended the coup as necessary to save the nation from a political crisis and denied sending troops into Gwangju. "I am sure that I would take the same action, if the same situation arose," Chun told the court. Chun was born on March 6, 1931, in Yulgok-myeon, a poor farming town in the southeastern county of Hapcheon, during Japanese rule over Korea. He joined the military straight out of high school, working his way up the ranks until he was appointed a commander in 1979. Taking charge of the investigation into the assassination of President Park Chung-hee that year, Chun courted key military allies and gained control of South Korea's intelligence agencies to headline a Dec. 12 coup. "In front of the most powerful organisations under the Park Chung-hee presidency, it surprised me how easily (Chun) gained control over them and how skilfully he took advantage of the circumstances. In an instant he seemed to have grown into a giant," Park Jun-kwang, Chun's subordinate during the coup later told journalist Cho Gab-je. Chun's eight-year rule in the presidential Blue House was characterised by brutality and political repression. It was, however, also marked by growing economic prosperity. Chun resigned from office amid a nationwide student-led democratic movement in 1987 demanding a direct electoral system. In 1995, he was charged with mutiny, treason and was arrested after refusing to appear at the prosecutors' office and fleeing to his hometown. At what local media dubbed the "trial of the century", he and Roh were found guilty of mutiny, treason and bribery. In their verdict, judges said Chun's rise to power came "through illegal means which inflicted enormous damage on the people". Thousands of students were believed to have been killed at Gwangju, according to testimonies by survivors, former military officers and investigators. Roh was given a lengthy jail term while Chun was sentenced to death. However, that was commuted by the Seoul High Court in recognition of Chun's role in the fast-paced economic development of the Asian "Tiger" economy and the peaceful transfer of the presidency to Roh in 1988. Both men were pardoned and freed from jail in 1997 by President Kim Young-sam, in what he called an effort to promote "national unity." An association of survivors' groups said at a news conference on Tuesday that it was lamentable that Chun died without apologising for the coup and Gwangju "massacre," vowing to continue seeking the truth and "justice of history." Chun made several returns to the spotlight. He caused a national furore in 2003 when he claimed total assets of 291,000 won ($245) of cash, two dogs and some home appliances - while owing some 220.5 billion won in fines. His four children and other relatives were later found to own large swaths of land in Seoul and luxurious villas in the United States. Chun's family in 2013 vowed to pay off the bulk of his debt, but his unpaid fines still totalled some 100 billion won as of last December. Seoul city said last week that his unpaid taxes exceeded 980 million won. In 2020, Chun was found guilty and received an eight-month suspended sentence for defaming a late democracy activist and Catholic priest in his 2017 memoirs. Prosecutors have appealed, and Chun had faced a trial next week. Chun had wished to be cremated and buried near the border with North Korea, but his family would make a final decision when his youngest son, living in the United States, arrives, Min said.
The de-facto leader of South Korea's sprawling Samsung group Lee Jae-yong was convicted Tuesday of illegally using the anaesthetic drug propofol, the latest legal travail to beset the multi-billionaire. Lee -- the vice-chairman of the world's biggest smartphone maker Samsung Electronics and according to Forbes the world's 238th richest person -- was fined 70 million won ($60,000) by the Seoul Central District Court, a spokesman said. The sum is around 0.0006 percent of his estimated $10.2 billion fortune. He was found guilty of having repeatedly taken the anaesthetic at a plastic surgery clinic in Seoul dozens of times over several years. Propofol is normally a medical anaesthetic but is also sometimes used recreationally, and an overdose of the drug was given as the cause of pop star Michael Jackson's death in 2009. Usage is normally seen as a minor offence in South Korea and prosecutors originally proposed fining him 50 million won under a summary indictment, a procedure where less serious cases do not go to court. But the court overruled the prosecution and ordered a trial. "The quantity injected is very high and the nature of crime committed is not light considering the social responsibility the defendant bears," judge Jang Young-chae said according to Yonhap news agency. "But he has confessed to the injection and has never been convicted of this crime before." He fined Lee 70 million won and ordered him to forfeit 17 million won in assets, urging him to "adopt exemplary behaviour that your children will not be embarrassed by". Wearing a dark business suit and a facemask, Lee remained tight-lipped as he entered the courthouse, skipping questions from reporters. When his trial opened earlier this month, he apologised to the court "for causing such trouble and concern due to my personal matter", but insisted the injection was "for medical purposes". Samsung Electronics declined to comment to AFP. Though the financial penalty is insignificant for the 53-year-old, the propofol case has been something of a public relations embarrassment for Samsung and Lee, who has been mired in legal issues including a sprawling corruption scandal, for five years. Two months ago, he was released early from a two and a half year prison term for bribery, embezzlement and other offences in connection with the graft case that brought down ex-South Korean president Park Geun-hye. The early release was seen as the latest example of South Korea freeing on economic grounds business leaders imprisoned for corruption or tax evasion.
South Korean former president Roh Tae-woo, a decorated war veteran who played a pivotal but controversial role in the transition to democratic elections from rule by authoritarian leaders, has died, a Seoul hospital confirmed. The 88-year-old died on Tuesday, a Seoul National University Hospital official said, without citing the cause of death. Roh had been in poor health since 2002 when he received surgery for prostate cancer and was repeatedly hospitalized in recent years. In the space of a few decades, Roh went from military coup conspirator to South Korea's first popularly elected president, before ending his political career in ignominy with a jail sentence for treason and corruption. "I now feel limitlessly shameful for being a former president," Roh told the public in a tearful televised apology in 1995 for secretly amassing a $654 million slush fund while in office.
South Korea said yesterday that it has achieved its goal of vaccinating 70% of its 52mn people, paving the way for a planned return to normal next month. The target, set a month before the country kicked off its inoculation campaign in late February, was reached by 2pm, with some 36mn vaccinated, said the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA). The goal earlier met with scepticism as the government grappled with global Covid-19 vaccine shortages and shipment delays. But despite its rough start, South Korea quickly ramped up its vaccination drive, thanks chiefly to expanded supplies and relatively high public acceptance, surpassing the United States and other early starters. Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said last week that the government will begin a phased return to normal activities starting Nov 1, putting forward the shift initially scheduled for mid-November. “It’s impossible to put an end to the pandemic by reaching herd immunity due to the spread of highly transmissible Delta variant,” the KDCA said in a statement. “But meeting the vaccination goal has significant meaning in reducing severe cases and fatality, and as an important precondition for a transition to phased recovery of our daily lives.” South Korea has largely successfully managed to cope with the pandemic without imposing lockdowns seen in many other parts of the world, on the back of intensive testing and tracing. But it has struggled to suppress its fourth Covid-19 wave since last summer, with new daily cases topping 3,000 for the first time last month, though they brought fewer critical cases and deaths. The KDCA reported 1,508 new cases for Friday.
North Korea yesterday said the US was overreacting to its recent missile test and questioned the sincerity of Washington’s offers of talks, after a US envoy repeated an offer to meet without preconditions. Pyongyang has said in recent weeks that its weapons tests are aimed at boosting its defence capabilities just as other countries do, accusing the US, South Korea and the United Nations of adopting a hostile policy and “double standards” towards it. North Korea on Tuesday test-fired a new ballistic missile from a submarine, pushing ahead with military activities in the face of diplomatic pressure and international sanctions over its nuclear and missile programmes. The US ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, urged Pyongyang to comply with UN sanctions banning nuclear and missile tests and accept offers of talks, reiterating that Washington has no hostile intent toward it. “It is time to engage in sustained and substantive dialogue toward the goal of complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” Thomas-Greenfield told reporters ahead of a UN Security Council meeting over the North’s latest missile test. “We have offered to meet the DPRK officials, without any preconditions, and we have made clear that we hold no hostile intent toward the DPRK,” Thomas-Greenfield said, using the initials of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, its official name. Her comments echoed offers by the top US nuclear envoy Sung Kim to meet with the North’s officials without preconditions and repeated statements that Washington harboured no hostile intent towards Pyongyang. Kim was expected to visit Seoul today for talks with his South Korean counterpart, Yonhap news agency reported yesterday. North Korea’s statement by an unnamed foreign ministry spokesperson came just after Thomas-Greenfield’s comments, calling the Tuesday’s missile test part of normal activity to carry out its mid- and long-term defence plan and was not aimed at the US or any other country. “To criticise the DPRK for developing and test-firing the same weapon system as the one the US possesses or is developing is a clear expression of double standards,” the spokesperson said in a statement carried by KCNA. The spokesperson said Washington had nonetheless taken “very provocative moves” by calling for a gathering of the UN Security Council. The Security Council met on Wednesday following a request from the US.
North Korea fired a suspected submarine-launched ballistic missile into the sea on Tuesday, the South's military said, the nuclear-armed country's latest advance in weapons technology and one that could give it a second-strike capability. The test came with both Koreas building up their weapons capabilities in what could become an arms race on the peninsula, and with the Washington-Pyongyang dialogue at a standstill. The "short-range ballistic missile suspected to be an SLBM" was fired from Sinpo into the sea east of the peninsula, Seoul's Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a statement. Sinpo is a major naval shipyard with satellite photographs previously showing submarines at the facility, and the statement added: "South Korean and US intelligence are closely analysing for additional detail." The key question will be whether it was fired from a working submarine, or an underwater platform or barge. A proven submarine-based missile capability would take the North's arsenal to a new level, allowing deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula and a second-strike capability in the event of an attack on its military bases. North Korea is banned from developing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles under UN Security Council resolutions, and is subject to multiple sets of sanctions as a result. Pyongyang is known to be developing an SLBM and has carried out two previous underwater launches in 2016 and 2019, although the Pentagon and analysts say those were likely to have been from a submerged platform with the system in its early stages. "The Kim (Jong Un) regime is developing submarine-launched ballistic missiles because it wants a more survivable nuclear deterrent able to blackmail its neighbours and the United States," said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul. "North Korea's SLBM is probably far from being operationally deployed with a nuclear warhead," he cautioned, "but Kim cannot politically afford appearing to fall behind in a regional arms race." South Korea last month tested its first SLBM, putting it among the elite group of nations that have demonstrated proven technology, and also unveiled a supersonic cruise missile. Tuesday's launch comes after North Korea -- which invaded its neighbour in 1950 -- in recent weeks tested a long-range cruise missile, a train-launched weapon and what it said was a hypersonic warhead, sparking global concern. It also mounted a rare weapons exhibition, showcasing the gigantic international ballistic missile (ICBM) revealed at a night-time military parade last year. Pyongyang says it needs its arsenal to defend itself against a possible US invasion. Opening the weapons exhibition, leader Kim Jong Un -- who has overseen rapid progress in the North's military technology -- blamed Washington for tensions, dismissing US assertions that it does not have hostile intentions. "The fundamental reason for the North's provocation is because the US is not changing its position on talks," Shin Beom-chul, a researcher at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy, told AFP. "Pyongyang is trying to demonstrate that it can carry out a bigger provocation." South Korea's National Security Council convened an emergency meeting over Tuesday's launch, expressing "deep regret" and urging Pyongyang to return to dialogue. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said two ballistic missiles had been fired, also calling the launch "very regrettable". Pyongyang's latest move came with Avril Haines, the US director of national intelligence, visiting Seoul for a three-way meeting with her South Korean and Japanese counterparts on North Korea Tuesday, according to reports. It also followed US envoy Sung Kim renewing his appeal for talks. "We harbour no hostile intent toward the DPRK and we are hopeful to meeting with them without conditions," he said following talks with his South Korean counterpart in Washington. South Korean President Moon Jae-in is pressing for a formal declaration that the Korean War is over -- hostilities ceased in 1953 with an armistice rather than a peace treaty -- before his term ends next year. Kim met three times with former US president Donald Trump, who boasted of stopping a war but failed to reach a comprehensive agreement on ending North Korea's nuclear programme. The talks process has been largely at a standstill since a second meeting in Hanoi the following year collapsed over sanctions relief and what Pyongyang would be willing to give up in return. In 2017, the North tested missiles that can reach the whole of the continental United States and carried out its most powerful nuclear explosion to date.