02:35 GMT28 May 2020
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    North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un wants to complete the development of nuclear weapons by the end of 2017, so that the country could participate in international talks as a nuclear power, defected North Korean diplomat Thae Yong Ho said Tuesday.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) The North's leader is "racing ahead with nuclear development after setting up a plan to develop it (nuclear weapons) at all costs by the end of 2017," the diplomat was quoted as saying at a briefing by Yonhap news agency.

    He stressed that Kim would not give up on nuclear weapons even if offered $1 trillion or $10 trillion, so that the North could participate in the talks with the new US and South Korean administrations as a nuclear power.

    Since the end of the Korean War in 1953, the two Koreas have been divided by a demilitarized zone. The conflict is formally ongoing, as the sides signed an armistice, and not a peace treaty, at the end of the war. The process toward potential Korean reunification was started by the 2000 North–South Joint Declaration, but the relations between the two Koreas later deteriorated as the North declared itself a nuclear power in 2005.

    On September 5, Pyongyang launched three ballistic missiles in the direction of the Sea of Japan. Several days later it conducted a successful test of a nuclear warhead, which is believed to be the fifth and largest blast since Pyongyang began pursuing nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

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