Mr. Kim’s more aggressive posture has been evident through a series of actions this month. On Wednesday, the North fired several cruise missiles from its west coast into the sea, the South Korean military said. Mr. Kim’s government announced on Jan. 14 that it had tested a new solid-fuel intermediate-range missile tipped with a hypersonic warhead. And on Jan. 5, his military fired hundreds of artillery shells into waters near South Korean islands, forcing some residents to seek shelter.
At the same time, Mr. Kim has decided to formally abandon a longtime official goal of peaceful reunification with South Korea, the North Korean state news media announced on Jan. 16. Mr. Kim had signaled the move for months and said in a speech the day before that conciliatory references to unity with the Republic of Korea, as the South is officially known, must be removed from the Constitution.
“We can specify in our Constitution the issue of completely occupying, subjugating and reclaiming the R.O.K. and annexing it as a part of the territory of our republic in case a war breaks out on the Korean Peninsula,” Mr. Kim said.
He has repeatedly denounced the three-way security pact announced in August by President Biden, President Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan.
The confluence of Mr. Kim’s policy shift and the projectile firings has caught the attention of U.S. officials who monitor North Korea, which has a nuclear weapons program and is under harsh United Nations sanctions. Mr. Kim’s moves also appear to be shutting the door, for now, on any chance of diplomacy with the United States, which he has shunned since his face-to-face talks with President Donald J. Trump failed in 2019.