Opinions – It should be crystal clear: North Korea has nuclear weapons not only for defensive purposes but, according to Kim Jong-un, to respond to any perceived threat to North Korea and its leadership.
On April 25, Kim made these commentsM Military parade in Pyongyang, 90’s celebrationM Anniversary of the founding of the Korean People’s Army. According to North Korean state media reports, Kim then doubled down on April 30, warning that Pyongyang could already use its nuclear weapons to counter enemy forces.
This is a significant change for North Korea. During nearly 30 years of negotiations with North Korea, their message was consistent: their nuclear weapons could never be used against the United States or any other country for deterrence, self-defense. Kim’s recent announcements make it abundantly clear that their nuclear weapons could be used for offensive purposes, to include its predetermined use against any perceived threat.
Kim is sending a message to the United States and South Korea: the self-imposed moratorium on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and nuclear tests is over, and we are going to build more nuclear weapons and missiles to deliver them to the United States. . Among the 13 missiles launched this year are the giant Hwasong-17, which can reach the entire United States, hypersonic ballistic missiles with potential missile defense, short-range solid fuel, and missiles capable of threatening South Korea and Japan. Ballistic missiles launched from submarines. It is a clear manifestation of North Korea’s nuclear program. What we do not see is the continued production of isolated material for nuclear weapons capable of delivering these missiles.
The North will probably conduct its seventh nuclear test in the next few weeks. The last test, conducted in 2017, was evaluated as a successful thermonuclear test. And during the Trump-Kim summit and in North Korea’s willingness to refrain from any nuclear and ICBM tests in North Korea, work continues on the Pungi-ri nuclear test site, which was closed and partially demolished in 2018. This, however, did not prevent the North from testing short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, which threaten the very existence of our allies in South Korea and Japan, and Guam.
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May 10M, President-elect Eun Sook-eol will be sworn in as South Korea’s new president, replacing Moon Jae-in. Eun, a conservative member of the People’s Power Party, narrowly defeated his liberal opponent from the Democratic Party, Lee Jae-mung. Eun made it clear that his focus would be on closer strategic alliances with the United States and improved relations with Japan. The message to North Korea is equally clear: complete and verifiable nuclear disarmament is the goal, and sanctions should not be lifted until North Korea moves forward with disarmament. Undoubtedly, Yoon’s remarks about a pre-determined strike while detecting signs of a (missile) launch from the south-north also drew Pyongyang’s attention. Kim Jong-un’s powerful sister, Kim Yoo-jung, was criticized in early April by South Korean Defense Minister Suu Kyi for publicly speaking out against a premeditated attack on North Korea, which was launched after North Korea launched Hwasong-17 on March 24. Four-year moratorium on ICBM launch.
Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war in Ukraine have caught the attention of Kim Jong-un. In 1994, Ukraine delivered more than 1,900 nuclear warheads to Russia in exchange for security assurances from Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom. The agreement, the Budapest Memorandum of Understanding on Security, did not preclude Russia from invading and annexing Crimea in 2014 and occupying part of Ukraine’s southeastern Donbass region. This, of course, did not deter Russia from its 2022 invasion and war with Ukraine, an independent and sovereign country that voluntarily gave up its nuclear weapons for so-called security assurances – a promise that Russia blatantly ignored.
So, assuming we bring North Korea back to the negotiating table, it will prove that it is more difficult for Pyongyang to understand that giving up its nuclear weapons will make North Korea safer and more prosperous. Our negotiators need to be flexible and creative, with the goal of building trust and confidence that a path to normal relations with the United States will provide North Korea with security guarantees and opportunities for economic development that would allow North Korea, a heavily banned country with nuclear weapons. No. But it is far from here, especially now, when there are all indications that North Korea has abandoned the talks and is determined to build more nuclear weapons and remain attached to China and Russia.
The Chinese special envoy to the Korean Peninsula, Ambassador Liu Xiaoming, arrived in Seoul on Sunday for a meeting with officials from the Moon Jae-in government and the incoming Yun Su-yul administration. At an immediate news conference, Liu said the United States and North Korea are responsible for resolving the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, and that China and South Korea are important partners for a political solution.
Hopefully, in private talks in Seoul, Liu also spoke about China’s efforts to persuade North Korea to return to unconditional talks with the United States and to refrain from additional missile and nuclear tests. A China that supplies North Korea with more than 90% of its crude oil and petroleum products and more than 90% of its foreign trade – can succeed if they try.
Ignoring nuclear development with North Korea is not an option. Whether we like it or not, North Korea is a priority that must be addressed – by China, the United States, South Korea and Japan, and by the international community. We are rightly concerned when a nuclear-armed country like Russia keeps its nuclear arsenal on high alert. We should also be concerned when Kim Jong-un has already spoken of the use of nuclear weapons.
This article by Cipher Brief Expert Ambassador Joe Detriani was first published in the Washington Times.
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