North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has announced the end of the moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests put in place during his country’s talks with the United States.
Kim also said his country would soon introduce “a new strategic weapon”.
Kim’s comments came at the end of a four-day gathering of party leaders in Pyongyang, an unusual event for this time of the year.
State media on Wednesday reported him as saying North Korea was no longer bound by the self-declared moratorium, as the US continued joint military drills with South Korea and had stepped up their sanctions.
“Under such condition, there is no ground for us to get unilaterally bound to the commitment any longer, the commitment to which there is no opposite party, and this is chilling our efforts for worldwide nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation,” KCNA news agency quoted Kim as saying.
He threatened that “the world will witness a new strategic weapon” from the North “in the near future”, while giving no further details.
Kim’s comments to the party meeting also admitted that sanctions have hit the economy and were unlikely to be lifted soon, warning that North Koreans will have to “tighten out belts”.
The North Korean leader did not, however, mention US President, Donald Trump, or South Korea by name.
But he left a door open for dialogue, and said the scope of any testing would depend on the US’s “attitude”.
The North conducted several smaller weapons tests late in 2019, in what was seen as an attempt to pressure the US into making concessions.
But the self-declared moratorium on nuclear tests and tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that could reach the US mainland had been one of the foundations of the negotiations with Washington.
Pyongyang has not carried out such tests since 2017.
Speaking at a New Year’s event in the US state of Florida, President Trump told reporters that he and Mr Kim “did sign a contract, talking about denuclearisation”.
“I think he’s a man of his word,” the US President said.
Mike Pompeo, the US Foreign Secretary, said he hoped North Korea would choose peace over war.
“If Chairman Kim has reneged on the commitments he made to President Trump, that is deeply disappointing,” Mr Pompeo told US broadcaster CBS.
“He made those commitments to President Trump in exchange for President Trump agreeing not to conduct large-scale military exercises. We’ve lived up to our commitments. We continue to hold out hope that he will live up to his as well.”