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North Korea to Bolster Nuclear Forces as Iran Busts Venezuela Sanctions

Newsweek logo Newsweek 24/05/2020 06:13:00 Christina Zhao

In this undated photo provided on Sunday, May 24, 2020, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a meeting of the Seventh Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea in North Korea. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP) © Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via APIn this undated photo provided on Sunday, May 24, 2020, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a meeting of the Seventh Central Military Commission of the Workers' Party of Korea in North Korea. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP) North Korea leader Kim Jong Un ordered his military to bolster nuclear deterrence and an Iranian tanker entered Venezuela waters over U.S. objections on Saturday, setting up new tests for a Trump administration distracted by the pandemic.

In his first public appearance in three weeks, Kim set in place new policies to further ramp up the nation's nuclear war deterrence during a meeting with the ruling Workers' Party's Central Military Commission on Saturday, state news agency KCNA reported.

The hermit kingdom's move comes as Trump-led denuclearization negotiations have made little progress since late last year as the U.S. president continues to prioritize his domestic response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Trump's offshore worries compounded on Saturday as Iran, ignoring U.S. warnings and sanctions, sent the first of five tankers loaded with gasoline into Venezuela's exclusive economic zone. According to Refinitiv Eikon, the vessel, named Fortune, arrived at around 7:40 p.m. local time today, despite a warning from American officials that Washington would likely respond to such shipments to the fuel-starved nation.

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"The ships from the fraternal Islamic Republic of Iran are now in our exclusive economic zone," Venezuela's Economy Vice President and Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami tweeted. The country's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza also took to the social media platform to confirm that "the first ship with gasoline" had arrived.

The shipment, expected to temporarily ease the South American country's fuel shortage, defies Trump's sanctions imposed on the two U.S. foes.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani earlier on Saturday warned the U.S. against intervening with the tankers that were, at the time, headed for Venezuela. While American officials were not planning on intercepting the Iranian ships, the Trump administration has accused Iran of supporting Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, whom the U.S. views as an illegitimate dictator.

It is currently unclear how Trump intends to respond to the two events that occurred today. A senior U.S. official told Reuters that Washington is currently weighing up measures to retaliate against Iran's breach of their Venezuela sanctions, but declined to give further information.

As for North Korea, Kim warned the U.S. last fall that it had until the end of 2019 to restart denuclearization negotiations. After the deadline passed, North Korea ramped up missile testing earlier this year. In late March, the country's regime fired an unidentified projectile into the sea near Japan's coast, marking its sixth launch in one month.

Newsweek reached out to the White House and the Department of Defense for comment. This article will be updated with any response.

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