North Korea is a small country located in East Asia with a population of around 25.4 million people. The economy of North Korea is largely dependent on mineral resources, agriculture and military exports with its GDP per capita estimated at US$1,800 in 2017. In terms of foreign relations, North Korea has strong ties to other countries in the region such as China and South Korea as well as other countries around the world. It is also a member of the United Nations, although it is not a member of the African Union (AU) or Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). In terms of politics, North Korea has a single-party system under the rule of Kim Jong-un since 2011. The Parliament consists of 687 members who are elected by popular vote every five years. In 2017, the ruling Workers’ Party won all seats in parliamentary elections and maintained its grip on power under Kim Jong-un’s leadership. See militarynous for North Korea military and defense.
North Korea. A series of successful robot tests strengthened North Korea’s position in the outside world during the year, which led to rising international concern and sharply increased tensions between North Korea and the United States. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for frequently used acronyms and abbreviations related to as well as country profile of North Korea.
In May, North Korea tested a new type of robot called Hwasong-12. It reached an altitude of 200 miles and landed in the Japanese sea. Even greater potential was Hwasong-14, which North Korea tested on two occasions in July. The robot type was the country’s first “truly intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)”, according to the British BBC. The robots flew for 39 and 47 minutes respectively and landed in the Japanese sea. According to analysts, Hwasong-14 had the capacity to reach a range of up to 10,400 kilometers, which meant it could reach from northeastern North Korea all the way to New York.
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According to Countryaah.com, reactions to North Korea’s robot tests were strong and during a meeting in August, the UN Security Council unanimously approved the most stringent sanctions against the country to date. Among other things, North Korea was banned from exporting coal, iron, lead ore and seafood. However, the Russian Federation and China were critical of sanctions. They would rather see reduced military activity from the US and South Korea in exchange for freezes of North Korea’s robot tests.
At the end of August, North Korea continued to postpone yet another Hwasong-12 robot despite the sanctions. The robot was fired from an area near Pyongyang and passed over the Japanese island of Hokkaido before crashing into the Pacific Ocean east of Japan. The incident was described as unusually serious as this was the first time a ballistic robot flew over the territory. Both Japan and South Korea and the United States condemned North Korea’s actions in harsh terms and threatened with counter-attacks if the provocations continued.
Almost a week later, North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test since 2006. The test was the most powerful to date and measured the magnitude of 6.3. According to the North Korean regime, the bomb, which was said to have been a hydrogen bomb, could be shot away with one of the country’s robots. In response to the nuclear test, the UN Security Council agreed on further sanctions against North Korea. Among other things, all UN countries were prohibited from issuing work permits for North Koreans.
Despite that, North Korea test-fired in late November the country’s most powerful robot, known as Hwasong-15. The missile was fired at an estimated altitude of 450 miles and landed in the Japanese sea within the Japanese economic zone. According to analysts, the new robot had a potential range of 13,000 kilometers. In connection with the test, President Kim Jong Un stated that North Korea, whose robots could now reach the US mainland, had achieved the long-awaited goal of becoming a nuclear power. Since February, North Korea had test-fired a total of 23 robots. The UN Security Council responded to the postponement with further sanctions in December. For example, oil exports to North Korea were restricted by up to 90 percent.
At the same time, trial proceedings were underway in Malaysia against two women, accused of having murdered President Kim Jong Un’s half-brother Kim Jong Nam at Kuala Lumpur Airport on February 13. The murder was suspected to be linked to the North Korean regime and four North Korean agents were called in March by Interpol. According to South Korea’s intelligence agency, Kim Jong Un was believed for several years to have planned to murder the half-brother, who lived in exile.