North Koreans hoist their flag during a celebration marking the new year on Jan. 1, 2024.

North Koreans hoist their flag during a celebration marking the new year on Jan. 1, 2024. (Korean Central News Agency)

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea — North Korea will scrap its efforts to reunify the Korean Peninsula due to South Korea’s “collusion with foreign forces,” the country’s state-run news agency reported Sunday.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during the five-day, end-of-year ruling party plenary meeting in Pyongyang last week made a “decisive policy change” toward South Korea, according to a Korean Central News Agency report published Sunday.

Kim said Pyongyang will abandon its efforts to reunify the peninsula because of Seoul’s insistence on the “collapse of the [North Korean] regime” and “absorbing” the North, KCNA reported.

North Korean media frequently claim that efforts to peacefully reunite the peninsula following the 1950-53 Korean War is stymied by U.S.-South Korean military drills and economic sanctions.

“It is not suitable to … [North Korea] to discuss the issue of reunification with the strange clan, who is no more than a colonial stooge of the [United States],” the report said.

North Korea’s Foreign Affairs Minister Choe Son-hui met with government officials Monday to “abolish and readjust organizations” relating to South Korean affairs, according to a news release from the ministry that day.

South Korea’s Ministry of Unification, the government agency tasked with promoting inter-Korean dialogue and reunification of the peninsula, said it “strongly condemns” Kim’s remarks, according to an emailed statement Monday.

Seoul will continue to “overwhelmingly suppress North Korea’s threats” with the U.S. and “pursue the normalization of inter-Korean relations …,” the ministry said.

North Korean rhetoric toward South Korea and the United States may test whoever is U.S. president in 2025, according to the Seoul-based Korean Institute for National Unification senior research fellow Hong Min.

“North Korea’s focus could be on showcasing its maximum weapon capabilities, particularly nuclear capabilities, before the upcoming U.S. presidential election,” Hong said by phone Tuesday.

North Korea may believe that its nuclear weapons could be a bargaining chip strong enough on its own, Hong said, and that pursuing reunification or diplomatic relations with the South may just be a burden.

During the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, Kim also said the regime will launch three military spy satellites into orbit and accelerate its nuclear weapons plan, according to KCNA.

Two of North Korea’s three satellite launch attempts in 2023 ended in failure. The regime also fired 24 ballistic missiles, five of intercontinental range, last year.

During a televised New Year’s address Monday, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol vowed to enhance the country’s defense, with U.S. help, against North Korea. U.S. military assets made several shows of force in South Korea last year.

The USS Kentucky made a port call to Busan in July, marking the first visit of a U.S. nuclear-capable ballistic missile submarine to South Korea in 42 years.

Three months later, a U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bomber, also capable of carrying nuclear weapons, landed in South Korea for the first time in at least 30 years. It went on to fly the first-ever trilateral air power exercise with South Korean and Japanese fighter jets on Oct. 22., Twitter: @choibboy

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Joseph Ditzler is a Marine Corps veteran and the Pacific editor for Stars and Stripes. He’s a native of Pennsylvania and has written for newspapers and websites in Alaska, California, Florida, New Mexico, Oregon and Pennsylvania. He studied journalism at Penn State and international relations at the University of Oklahoma.

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