North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has announced a significant shift in the country’s policy towards South Korea, stating that North Korea will cease its longstanding pursuit of reconciliation with its southern neighbour.
In a historic move, Kim has called for a revision of the North’s constitution to formally eliminate the concept of shared statehood with South Korea, as reported by state media on Tuesday (16 Jan).
This announcement marks the end of a decades-long approach towards peaceful unification, which was rooted in a shared sense of national identity between the two Koreas. This change in stance arrives amidst escalating tensions, characterized by rapid advancements in North Korea’s weapons development and intensified military exercises between South Korea and the United States.
Experts suggest that Kim’s strategy may be aimed at diminishing South Korea’s influence in regional security discussions, positioning North Korea to negotiate directly with the United States over nuclear issues. This move is further seen as an effort to lend credibility to North Korea’s aggressive nuclear doctrine, which now openly authorizes preemptive nuclear strikes if Pyongyang perceives a threat to its leadership.
TheKoreaTimes quoted Hong Min, a senior research fellow at the Korea Institute for National Unification, saying that Kim Jong Un’s latest remarks may signal a “fundamental shift in inter-Korean relations in the 70-year history of division,” noting that the primary target of his messages seems to be the United States and not South Korea.
“Kim Jong-un’s description of South Korea as a hostile nation ultimately signals that he no longer regards Seoul as a party directly involved in issues linked to the Korean Peninsula. This indicates his intention to manage matters related to the peninsula primarily through North Korea-U.S. interactions,” Hong said.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern over these developments. U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric emphasized the importance of diplomatic engagement as the only viable path to sustainable peace and complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Simultaneously, North Korea has been strengthening its alliances with Moscow and Beijing, seeking to break out of diplomatic isolation and counterbalance U.S. influence.
In a decisive action reflecting this policy shift, North Korea dissolved key government agencies responsible for managing relations with South Korea during a recent meeting of its rubber-stamp parliament. The Supreme People’s Assembly declared South Korea a permanent adversary, no longer a partner in diplomacy.
Kim Jong Un accused South Korea and the United States of escalating regional tensions and characterized South Korea as a puppet of foreign powers. He proposed a constitutional amendment defining South Korea as North Korea’s “primary foe and invariable principal enemy,” and advocated for the removal of symbols of inter-Korean reconciliation, including cross-border railway sections and a reunification monument in Pyongyang.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol responded by highlighting the “anti-national and anti-historical” nature of Pyongyang’s government and assured of a robust defense readiness.
Kim Jong Un reiterated that while North Korea does not seek to initiate war, it will not shy away from conflict if provoked. He warned that a nuclear conflict on the Korean Peninsula would result in the end of South Korea and bring catastrophic defeat to the United States.
This development comes amid heightened international concern over North Korea’s reported arms cooperation with Russia in the Ukraine conflict, as well as a significant increase in North Korea’s weapons demonstrations since the beginning of 2022.
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