As 2022 draws to an end, Kim Jong Un convened a meeting of the Workers’ Party congress in Pyongyang and laid out new objectives for North Korea in the coming year. He spoke of a “Newly created challenging situation” on the peninsula and emphasized the need for a shift in the North’s “anti-enemy struggle.” He did not discuss the ‘challenging situation’ in great detail, choosing instead to highlight it as the reason behind North Korea’s need to increase its military power in 2023.
Kim’s talk of increasing military power it should be viewed as a sign that test firings of ballistic and other types of missiles will continue deep into the new year. Expect the possibility of a nuclear test to rise, as well as an increase of provocative actions in close proximity to the DMZ and the North’s border with the Republic of Korea. Monday’s launch of five North Korean drones into ROK airspace is a sign of things to come.
Kim Jong Un’s ambitious designs will present new problems for the Biden administration in Washington. It is already fair to assume that North Korea’s behavior and actions in the last twelve months were at least partially inspired by what it views as weakness on the part of the United States. Actions speak louder than words and unfortunately, the Biden administration’s warnings to North Korea about its increasingly belligerent behavior has not been supported by firm action. For most of 2022 the Biden administration relied on flyovers by US bombers and stealth fighters in ROK airspace to serve as the primary deterrent and warning. Evidently, the flyovers have not convinced Kim to soften his tone and approach. Quite the contrary, in fact.
North Korea could become a major concern in 2023. That warning is usually mouthed each year around this time. However, circumstances are quite different at present between US focus being fixed on Ukraine and to a lesser degree China. Pyongyang’s plans for the coming year will be looked at early next week when we examine the possibilities in Ukraine, the Western Pacific and on the Korean peninsula for the coming year.