National Security

Wracked by Economic Meltdown, North Korea Pauses Weapons Testing

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North Korea has suspended weapons testing as it suffers from a massive economic meltdown, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

During an exceptionally challenging time for North Korea's leadership, the Communist regime has not conducted a major weapons test since April as it experiences economic struggles. 

Last week, dictator Kim Jong Un acknowledged the failure of the country's most recent five-year plan to jumpstart Pyongyang's economy, which has been crippled by American and U.N. sanctions, as well as the coronavirus. In recent months, the pandemic has cut trade between North Korea and China, its longtime ally and largest trading partner, by 90 percent. An independent estimate expects the North Korean economy could shrink by at least 8.5 percent in 2020 alone.

Amid the economic woes, Kim has switched around multiple senior aides in the past month and has delegated increasing responsibility to his sister, Kim Yo Jong, who is now seen as a de facto second-in-command in the communist country.

Kim's own current health also remains unclear. Following months of rumors about the dictator's health and lengthened disappearances, a former South Korean diplomat recently alleged that Kim has been in a coma for months.

In another possible sign of trouble for the country, the regime recently requisitioned pet dogs from the North Korean elite—a move that some suspect is intended to bolster the country's diminishing food supply.

Missile and nuclear development programs have long been a key feature of Pyongyang's efforts to leverage favorable treatment from the West. Kim started this year with a flurry of weapons tests in an attempt to create better conditions for an arms agreement with Washington and Seoul. Agreement talks fell apart earlier this summer and look unlikely to restart under the Trump administration.