SEOUL, South Korea (AFP) – South Korea on Sunday urged North Korea to honor its previous disarmament pledges while expressing concerns over North Korea’s unveiling of a new long-range missile during a military parade.
During celebrations for the 75th anniversary of its ruling party in Pyongyang on Saturday, North Korea showed off a variety of weapons systems, including two that were first unveiled to a foreign audience. One is what appears to be an ICBM larger than any ICBM known to North Korea, and the other is likely an upgraded version of a submarine-launched missile.
While some experts say they may be mockups of the missiles under development, their disclosure indicates that North Korea has been pushing continuously to boost its weapons capabilities amid the stalemate in nuclear diplomacy with the United States.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that it had expressed its concerns about the fact that “North Korea has uncovered weapons including what is a suspected long-range ballistic missile.” A ministry statement called on North Korea to abide by the 2018 inter-Korean agreements aimed at reducing hostilities.
The South Korean Foreign Ministry issued a separate statement urging North Korea to return to talks to advance its previous commitment to achieving denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula. After an emergency meeting of the National Security Council, South Korea’s members said they would continue analyzing the strategic importance of North Korean weapons systems unveiled on Saturday and reviewing South Korea’s defense capabilities.
Inter-Korean relations remain strained amid the nuclear diplomatic deadlock between Pyongyang and Washington.
During a speech at the military parade, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned that he would fully mobilize his nuclear power if threatened but avoided direct criticism of Washington.
The fact that Kim is maintaining his self-imposed freeze on long-range nuclear and missile tests indicates that he still wants to keep the chances of diplomacy with the United States alive. But some experts say he will eventually conduct a major weapons test after the US presidential election in November to bolster his influence in potential new negotiations with the United States, whoever wins the election.