North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (KCNA-Yonhap)
North Korea’s program to develop new strategic weapons is nearing the production stage, a Seoul-based North Korea watcher warned Friday, calling for swift action from the international community to curb the import of parts that could be used to make weapons.
Kim Jina, a research fellow at the Korea Institute of Defense Analyses, a Defense Ministry think tank, made the claim after analyzing the communist regime’s import items. Despite the sweeping sanctions imposed by the United Nations, loopholes remain, she stressed.
“North Korea imported in 2018 bulks of pumps and aluminum that go with liquid or hybrid rocket engines, among other components,” she said, adding that such items continued to be shipped there despite a reduction in total imports.
The isolated country has also been buying dual-use items that could be used for weapons production and are not subject to the United Nations ban. North Korea tested new rockets and missiles in March and leader Kim Jong-un, in a New Year’s address, vowed to introduce “new strategic weapons” this year.
While the import data suggested preparations for the production stage, it was unclear how far Pyongyang had advanced in terms of weapons technology, she said.
She added that the international community should toughen oversight of financial transactions, as Pyongyang attempts to skirt the import ban by sourcing alternative imports from Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa.
South Korea should step up efforts to persuade countries to curb the North’s nuclear program, and should be ready to work with the US when Washington pursues sanctions against Pyongyang and secondary sanctions against those doing business with it, she added.
By Choi Si-young (firstname.lastname@example.org