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Explained: North Korea's relentless advanced weapons programme

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North Korea’s energetic resumption of its advanced weapons development programme is seen as a continuation of its old carrot-and-stick policy to get out of global economic sanctions. The country is officially unable to import oil, minerals, gold, and luxury goods, even as it keeps test-firing missiles.

Explained: North Korea's relentless advanced weapons programme
North Korea is one of nine countries in the world that possess nuclear weapons. And far from denuclearising its arsenal under international pressure, it continues to go ahead with its advanced weapons development programmes.
More tests 
North Korea recently tested several different missiles. The most recent launch was of new anti-air missiles, according to state media KCNA. The country, in the past few weeks, had also tested a new hypersonic missile that was capable of striking both Japan and South Korea, key rivals of the nuclear-powered state.
Other tests included a potential ballistic missile and a cruise missile. These test launches came after a lull of nearly six months in the country’s weapon development programme.
North Korea has held that it tested its new weapons as part of boosting its self-defence capabilities and criticised the United States and South Korea for "double standards" and a "hostile policy."
Experts, however, point to North Korea’s old diplomatic ‘carrot-and-stick’ ploy of showing the world its weapons to get what it wants on the international stage.
UN responds, North Korea defiant 
As North Korea’s testing is a violation of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions, the UN Security Council met to discuss the new developments. An emergency meeting, called by the US, UK and France, lasted an hour, without any official statement being made.
During the closed-door meeting, France reportedly circulated a proposed statement to express caution over the new tests from the nation and to fully implement UNSC resolutions that ban the firing of ballistic missiles.
North Korea, in response to the meeting, warned the international body that consists of five permanent members that are nuclear powers, saying it was encroaching on North Korea’s sovereignty.
"Demanding that we renounce our right to self-defence means an expression of its intention not to acknowledge the DPRK as a sovereign state," said Jo Chol Su, Director of the Department of International Organisations, at the foreign ministry, using the abbreviation for the country's official name.
"I express strong concerns over the fact that the UNSC amused itself with the dangerous 'time-bomb' this time," he added in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
Conflicts and sanctions 
The country is technically still at war with its southern counterpart, the Republic of Korea, which recently tested its own submarine-launched ballistic missiles. North Korea has been facing crippling economic sanctions since 2006, when it conducted its first nuclear test.
The country is officially unable to import oil, minerals, gold, and luxury goods. Experts have suggested that the ramp-up in weapons testing is a way to pressure the United States and South Korea to lift some of the sanctions in exchange for North Korea to return to the halted peace talks between the three nations.
While the UN sanctions are aimed at stopping North Korea from further developing its nuclear weapons programme, the country is already estimated to have 30-40 nuclear weapons with capabilities to produce 6-7 additional weapons each year.
Denuclearisation & some precedents
The US, South Korea, and many other nations would like to see the complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. But that appears to be unlikely. The North Korean leadership believes its nuclear arsenal to be a deterrent against any aggression that it may possibly face from the US or its other rivals.
The fates of some of the nations that gave up their nuclear arsenals or nuclear weapons programmes would not elicit much confidence in North Korea either.
Ukraine, which found itself in possession of a large number of nuclear weapons after the collapse of the Soviet Union, agreed to transfer it to be destroyed. They destroyed over 3,000 Soviet era nuclear weapons, only to be invaded and occupied by Russia in 2014.
Iraq and Libya stopped their nuclear weapons programmes, only to be overthrown later by a Western coalition force and rebels, respectively. While such events may not have been prevented by the presence of a nuclear arsenal, North Korea still continues to rely on its nuclear payload and advanced missiles for both self-defence and diplomatic measures.
 
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