SEOUL, South Korea — Even for a nation that has perfected the provocative, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's declaration that he would abandon the existential goal of reconciling with rival South Korea was a shock. But a closer look shows it's the almost inevitable culmination of years of building tension.
World powers will now be closely watching to see how one of Kim's biggest foreign policy declarations since he took power in 2011 plays out as he works to gain leverage in a region that holds both promise and danger for his small, impoverished, nuclear-armed nation.
The bombshell came at this week's rubber-stamp parliament, where Kim called for rewriting North Korea's constitution to eliminate the idea of a peaceful unification between the war-divided countries and to cement the South as an “invariable principal enemy.”
It's the clearest sign yet of how far inter-Korean relations have fallen since February 2019, when Kim's nuclear diplomacy with former U.S. President Donald Trump imploded in Hanoi, Vietnam. The animosity that followed that highly public setback has been accompanied by an accelerated, and unprecedented, expansion of Kim's nuclear arsenal and by repeated threats of nuclear war against Washington and Seoul.
Kim, who during Monday's Supreme People's Assembly meeting described South Korea as “top-class stooges” of America, may be attempting to diminish South Korea's regional power…