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Threats return

Threats return

North Korea seems to have run out of patience after the Singapore Summit seemed to have changed equations for the better. It did stop its nuclear tests for a while. But since the US sanctions stay, Pyongyang has got back to keeping Washington and the Korean peninsula in suspense. It has now tested a "newly developed ultramodern" weapon in an event supervised by leader Kim Jong Un, amid faltering nuclear disarmament negotiations with the United States. Very little is known about the weapon or whether it is even new, but the test is the latest sign that Pyongyang is prepared to return to a more militaristic relationship with Washington if talks continue to go poorly. "He's tiptoeing towards a more aggressive posture in negotiations with the US and he's signalling that he's not going to give way and can simply return to his old practices if (the US) don't change their approach," Josh Pollack, senior research associate at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterrey, said. A South Korean government source with military knowledge said the weapon was likely a piece of long-range artillery "likely to be a multiple rocket launcher." It marks the first time Kim has publicly attended such a blatantly military-focused event since his high-profile summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and US President Donald Trump in early 2018. On Thursday, US Vice President Mike Pence said the US was backing down on a requirement for North Korea to provide a full list of nuclear and missile sites before the second meeting between Trump and Kim.

Meanwhile, an official with the North Korean Foreign Ministry said that if the US does not start removing sanctions on Pyongyang, Kim could restart "building up nuclear forces." Pollack said the weapon test was the latest "veiled threat" from Pyongyang to the US that if progress wasn't made soon, a more hostile relationship could be back on the table. "What kind of weapon this may be is perfectly ambiguous but they did attribute it to the Academy of National Defence Sciences and they are associated with the missile programme," he said. Shin Beom-chol, a researcher at the Seoul-based Asan Institute, said although the exact type of weapon was unknown, it was unlikely to be a missile as South Korea would have detected it. "North Korea did not go on into any further detail about this test because they probably didn't want the situation escalating out of proportion," he informed. Speaking after the announcement of the weapon's test, South Korean Unification Ministry deputy spokeswoman downplayed the significance of the event. Be that as it may, the US must use its diplomatic resources to diffuse a potential threat from escalating.

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