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(LEAD) N. Korea showing no sign of 'lashing out' in near future: USFK chief

All News 00:03 September 11, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES with additional remarks, more details in paras 6-8, 10-11; ADDS photo)
By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is not showing any sign of provocation, such as rolling out a new strategic weapons system, the head of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) said Thursday, while insisting the impoverished North may be too caught up in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic and the amplified effects of sanctions.

"There's people suggesting that perhaps there'll be a rollout of a new weapons system. Ah, Maybe. But we're not seeing any indications right now, any sort of lashing out," USFK Commander Gen. Robert Abrams said in a webinar hosted by Washington-based Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS).

The image from the website of the Center for Strategic & International Studies shows Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, speaking during a webinar hosted by the Washington-based think tank on Sept. 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

His remark comes amid widespread speculation that the North may unveil a new weapons system in the near future to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of its ruling Workers' Party on Oct. 10.

CSIS has reported what it claimed to be signs of a possible test of a submarine-launched ballistic missile at North Korea's main submarine shipyard in northeastern Sinpo.

Abrams argued that the impoverished North, as well as its military, may be too caught up with keeping the country whole against international sanctions whose intended effects may be coming to full force and amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The USFK chief noted North Korea's imports from China dropped by about 50 percent after the United States and the U.N. Security Council imposed a series of sanctions to punish it for its sixth and latest nuclear test in September 2017.

He said imports from China plunged 85 percent after the North shut down its border with its neighbor in January.

"So there is a cumulative effect, economically, of COVID with the sanctions," Abrams said.

"So as a result, you know the regime right now, their military is focused principally on getting their country recovered and to help mitigate the risk of COVID-19," he told the virtual seminar.

Abrams, who also heads the United Nations Command in Korea, said things were "pretty calm" and "steady" along the inter-Korean border.

"There have been some bumps and bruises along the way, but in general I would say North Korea is abiding by the comprehensive military agreement from September 2018," the general said, referring to the non-aggression military agreement signed by the two Koreas.

bdk@yna.co.kr
(END)

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