North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has made a significant shift in his country's policy towards South Korea, declaring an end to efforts for reconciliation and reunification. According to the state-run news agency KCNA, Kim has redefined inter-Korean relations as "a relationship between two hostile countries and two belligerents at war." This statement marks a stark departure from the long-held goal of reunification, shared by both Koreas since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
Kim's remarks indicate a hardening stance, as he warned of severe consequences in case of military confrontation with Pyongyang. He criticized efforts for reconciliation and unification with those who view North Korea as 'the main enemy' and seek the regime's collapse.
This new position underscores a growing rift and heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea's Military and Diplomatic Moves
In line with this new stance, North Korea plans to launch three military spy satellites into orbit by 2024.
These developments come amidst escalating tensions due to North Korea's expanded nuclear weapons program, which continues despite international sanctions. Recently, Kim directed the army, munitions industry, nuclear weapons, and civil defense sectors to accelerate war preparations in response to what he perceives as 'confrontation moves' by the United States.
This reaction reflects the heightened political and military tensions on the Korean Peninsula, described as 'grave' by KCNA. Experts such as Hoo Chiew-Ping from the East Asian International Relations CAUCUS (EAIR) and Ja Ian Chong, a nonresident scholar at Carnegie China, have interpreted these developments as significant shifts in North Korea's foreign policy.
According to Hoo, Kim is moving away from inter-Korean relations and focusing more on strengthening ties with allies like China and Russia. Chong adds that this change poses questions about the future of the Korean Peninsula – whether it will maintain the status quo or escalate to more active measures for self-protection by North Korea.
“Given this situation, the question is whether non-unification means continuation of the status quo or if North Korea believes it needs to act to protect itself more actively, or even preempt what it sees as possible aggression from South Korea,” Chong added.
“The former is tolerable even as North Korea seeks to increase its defensive capability, since it keeps the status quo and is better than some belief in armed unification. If the latter, then friction and even tensions with South Korea and northeast Asia will likely rise,” he warned.