North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has asserted that his country is in the final stages of test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and vowed yet again that Pyongyang would not scale down its nuclear activities.
In his New Year address, televised by state-run media, Kim said that the year 2016 was extremely important as the North significantly bolstered its nuclear and missile capabilities. Pyongyang carried out two nuclear tests and launched several missiles in 2016 violating UN regulations.
"We were vibrant in developing advanced weapons (last year... We are in the final stages of preparing to test-fire an ICBM," Kim said inhis address. There has already been speculation that the North would carry out provocative acts to boost the image of Kim's regime in the country and globally.
Kim even went on to warn that Pyongyang would continually boost its abilities to undertake pre-emptive strikes against South Korean and US positions if the two adversaries do not stop their annual joint military exercises. South Korea and the US routinely take part in military drills, which they claim are for defensive purposes, but the North has labelled it as a pretext for an actual invasion.
"We should resolutely smash the enemies' despicable and vicious moves to dampen the pure and ardent desire of the people for the Party and estrange the people from it," said Kim.
The Korean peninsula has witnessed turbulence right from the start of 2016, when in January Pyongyang carried out its fourth nuclear test. More than 20 ballistic missiles were launched in the year stoking serious tensions in the region and forcing the UN to levy more sanctions on the reclusive and impoverished nation.