‘Deterrent’ expected to feature in upcoming military parade . . .
South Korean and U.S. intelligence confirmed Saturday that North Korea has moved an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) “larger than the one [North Korea] fired in 2017” outside of the capital, Pyongyang. Officials believe this missile will be featured at the upcoming October 10 military parade commemorating the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Worker’s Party of Korea. This revelation comes in the wake of North Korea’s announcement at the UN General Assembly last Tuesday that the country has obtained an “effective war deterrent” amidst continuing nuclear sanctions. North Korea also announced in the UN speech that it would direct “all of its efforts to economic construction.”
A worsening humanitarian crisis . . .
North Korea’s renewed focus on “economic construction” points to a bleak economic picture made worse by its COVID-19 prevention measures. Despite not reporting any confirmed COVID-19 cases – a record disputed by external experts – North Korea has indicated that its heavy measures would continue and even become more drastic. The UN has appealed for further international co-operation and humanitarian assistance as nearly 60 per cent of the population risks starvation and experts warn that North Korea is on the brink of repeating the disastrous ‘Arduous March’ famine of the 1990s. Flooding from summer typhoons has exacerbated existing food shortages, and South Korea, Russia, China, and the United States have offered millions of dollars of food and COVID-19-related aid.
A new wrench in international relations on the Korean peninsula . . .
The mounting humanitarian crisis and revelations of a potential ICBM deterrent complicate an already fraught situation on the Korean Peninsula. Harsh COVID-19 border measures in part instigated the killing of a South Korean official by North Korean border troops, denting South Korean hopes for inter-Korean reconciliation. The country’s increasing reliance on illegal business net-works and overseas workers’ remittances, which between them violate international sanctions and stoke border conflicts with neighbours like China, will exacerbate tensions. North Korea’s economic fragility could also provide a window of opportunity for countries such as South Korea, Japan, and the United States to negotiate security concerns in exchange for economic support and sanctions relief.