The National Defense Commission (NDC), North Korea’s top military organ, has declared that the country will conduct future nuclear tests with the United States very much in mind.
“We do not hide the fact that a variety of satellites and long-range rockets will be launched by [North Korea] one after another, and a nuclear test of a higher level will be carried out in the upcoming all-out action,” today’s statement proclaimed, pointing toward the possibility of an enriched uranium device test.
The planned actions will represent “a new phase of the anti-U.S. struggle that has lasted century after century, one that will target the U.S., the sworn enemy of the Korean people,” it went on, concluding, “The world will clearly see how the army and people of [North Korea] punish all kinds of hostile forces and emerge as a final victor while following the just road of defending its sovereignty, convinced of the justice of its cause.”
It’s not just Washington, though; there was a harsh message in the NDC comments for China, too. North Korea is clearly feeling unhappy at Beijing’s conduct, especially since the new leadership of Xi Jinping acquiesced to the latest UN resolution and then expressed its clear opposition to North Korean nuclear and missile developments in a meeting with a South Korean delegation.
“The keynote of the resolution was worked out via backstage dealing with the U.S. as the main player, and it was then adopted in the UNSC,” the statement noted, calling the unanimous adoption of the resolution by members, including China, a case of “blind hand-raising.”
Going on, it claimed, “This shows, at the same time, that those big countries, which have an obligation to take the lead in building a fair world order, are abandoning without hesitation even the most elementary principles under the influence of the U.S., using arbitrary and high-handed practices and failing to come to their senses.”
North Korea has had plenty of time to prepare its current diplomatic strategy, one that arguably began years ago, but certainly before last April’s failed launch. This pre-preparedness was reflected in the fact that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released its initial statement on the UN resolution just two hours after it was adopted.
2009, the last time North Korea tested a nuclear device, saw a similar process. First the UN Security Council released a presidential statement explicating new sanctions against Pyongyang following its long-range missile test, then the North immediately warned that if an apology were not forthcoming there would be a serious reaction. One was not, and the nuclear test swiftly followed.
Of course, the creation of tension at home and abroad has long been part of the Kim ruling strategy, and the truth is that Kim Jong Eun currently has nothing in the economic and diplomatic sphere upon which to rely. Therefore, a nuclear test is the only way he can hope to put pressure on the new government of President Barack Obama, and may be seen as necessary no matter how much it annoys Beijing, North Korea’s sole patron.
However, one more interesting but oft-overlooked aspect of this type of statement is that it is designed to create tension domestically, not only abroad. In other words, sanctions can provide a good excuse to cement domestic sentiment.
Purges may be one goal. As soon as he came to power last year, Kim Jong Eun dismissed and purged a number of key military figures. The current situation appears to foreshadow the creation of a warlike atmosphere once again, and this may means more purges to come. Inevitably, the UN sanctions may also have provided a convenient pretext for the launching of this process.