North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Un has rarely been seen in public as of late. His most recent appearance reportedly occurred during a military meeting – during which the country’s nuclear deterrence strategy was in focus. At a meeting of the military commission in North Korea, Kim — who has been submerged in the media spotlight for several weeks — reportedly discussed putting the strategic armed forces on high alert.

Heightening of North Korea’s Military Readiness

North Korean state media reported on Sunday that Kim chaired an extended meeting of the Labor Party’s military commission that outlined a new policy for further expanding the country’s nuclear power and its deterrence.

The reports also stated that the meeting discussed the options of putting the strategic armed forces “on high alert” effective immediately. How and when the new policies are to be implemented was not reported. However, South Korean intelligence assumed the meeting took place on Saturday, May 23, as North Korea often only reports on important meetings or events a day later.

The internationally isolated leadership of North Korea reportedly held the meeting after analyses had shown “a series of deficits in the military and political activities of the general armed forces” in the country. Accordingly, the main agenda for North Korea was now to improve the capabilities to militarily deter the threatening foreign forces such as South Korea and the United States. Significant measures were reportedly taken during the meeting to increase the firepower of the people’s artillery effective immediately.

North Korea’s Current Status

North Korea remains subject to severe United Nations Security Council sanctions for its nuclear weapons program. In its Punggye-ri nuclear test site, which was destroyed two years ago, the country had carried out its six nuclear tests, the last and most significant so far in September 2017.

Negotiations with the United States about nuclear disarmament have led nowhere since the failed summit between Kim and President Trump in Singapore in 2018 and Vietnam in February 2019. Neither side could agree on an agreeable roadmap for Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament.

Kim, who, according to South Korean intelligence, is 36-years-old, has rarely been seen in public in the past two months. His appearance at the inauguration of a fertilizer factory on May 1 had put an end to speculation abroad about his demise. After these reports had transpired, however, Kim disappeared from North Korea’s stage again. It is speculated that he will significantly limit his appearances and otherwise typical inspection trips through the country due to the coronavirus pandemic in the coming weeks and months. North Korea has so far, reportedly has had no confirmed infections.

Trump Considering First US Nuclear Test in Almost Three Decades

The reports about North Korea’s military meeting occurs after a Washington Post reported that the United States considered its first nuclear test since 1992 as a warning to Russia and China. According to the paper, President Trump’s administration discussed this possibility at a meeting on May 15, which quoted a senior government official and two former US officials.

Arms Control Association non-governmental leader Daryl Kimball told the Washington Post that such a decision would likely disrupt negotiations with Kim, “who may not be forced to adhere to his nuclear test moratorium.”

Korea was divided by the United States and the Soviet Union — similar to Germany after the Second World War — and a division followed soon after by the Korean War from 1950 to 1953. The war — which is technically still ongoing — cemented the status quo of North and South Korea to the present day. The United States has historically been an ally of South Korea, while China has been an ally of the authoritarian Communist North. According to international law, the state of war continues to exist as the 1953 ceasefire between the North and the South was never followed up with a signed peace treaty.

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