North Korea’s Kim shuts agencies working for reunification with South Korea

Kim Jong Un says his country does not want war but does not seek to avoid it.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un says reunification with South Korea is no longer possible [Ahn Young-joon/AP]

North Korea has scrapped several government bodies tasked with promoting reconciliation and reunification with South Korea as authoritarian leader Kim Jong Un warned that his secretive country does not seek to avoid war.

In a speech to North Korea’s rubber-stamp parliament, the Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim said unification with South Korea is no longer possible and called for a constitutional amendment to change the status of South Korea to a separate, “hostile country”, the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said on Tuesday.

“We don’t want war but we have no intention of avoiding it,” Kim was quoted as saying by KCNA.

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The Supreme People’s Assembly said in a statement that three organisations handling inter-Korean reconciliation – the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, the National Economic Cooperation Bureau and the (Mount Kumgang) International Tourism Administration – will shut.

“The two most hostile states, which are at war, are now in acute confrontation on the Korean peninsula,” the assembly said, according to KCNA.

The decision marks a further deterioration in relations between the Koreas following a series of recent missile tests by Pyongyang.

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South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol on Tuesday criticised North Korea’s move to define his country as hostile, saying it showed Pyongyang’s “anti-national and ahistorical” nature.

On Monday, North Korea said it had tested a new solid-fuel missile fitted with a hypersonic warhead, weeks after carrying out the launch of its Hwasong-18 solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile.

Japan, South Korea and the United States have ramped up joint military exercises that Pyongyang sees as rehearsals for a future invasion in response to the weapons tests.

Over the weekend, US Senior Official for the DPRK [The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, North Korea’s official name] Jung H Pak held a joint call with her South Korean and Japanese counterparts to condemn Pyongyang’s latest missile tests, the US State Department said on Monday.

In an analysis for the US-based 38 North project last week, former State Department official Robert Carlin and nuclear scientist Siegfried Hecker said it was their belief Kim was genuinely preparing for war.

“We do not know when or how Kim plans to pull the trigger, but the danger is already far beyond the routine warnings in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo about Pyongyang’s ‘provocations’,” they wrote.

“In other words, we do not see the war preparation themes in North Korean media appearing since the beginning of last year as typical bluster from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.”

Last week, Kim labelled South Korea a “principal enemy” and described efforts to reunify with its rival as a “mistake that we should no longer make”.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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