Kim Jong un’s North Korean regime are no strangers to exaggeration when it comes to threats levied toward the United States and its allies. In fact, up until recently, there were really only two things you could count on in terms of North Korean diplomacy: that they would offer up outlandish threats, and that the majority of the rest of the world would chuckle, offer them the geopolitical equivalent of a pat on the head, and get back to more pressing matters.
Over the past year or so, however, things have changed. Six nuclear tests, including one that appeared to be a successful detonation of dual-stage, or hydrogen bomb, warhead in conjunction with a litany of successful and failed ballistic missile tests have proven that Kim is no longer just a little guy with a big mouth – he’s suddenly a dangerous dictator with a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction.
Nonetheless, Kim’s regime has maintained the status quo in terms of outward communication, continuing to threaten the world at large with colorfully described, violent retribution for each perceived slight, to include a number of threats of preemptive nuclear strikes. Tests of the North Korean missile platform called the Hwasong-14 left experts within the United States reeling – as it appeared to demonstrate a flight path that would place cities on America’s East Coast within its range.
Issues muddied the water, however, including the apparent failure of the reentry vehicle on the platform, suggesting North Korea still has some work to do before effectively delivering a warhead, and a number of experts believed the dummy warhead affixed to the missile was actually significantly lighter than a real nuclear weapon would be, allowing it to demonstrate a flight capability that it couldn’t match in a real launch.
Nonetheless, the Hwasong-14 appeared to be, at least potentially, capable of striking nearly any target within the continental United States, which when paired with their recent development of thermonuclear warheads, made for a pretty troubling revelation. Kim, eager to capitalize on that revelation, issued a series of new threats, claiming that the entire United States mainland was now within his nuclear strike capability in public statements dating back at least as far as June of this year.
Now though, North Korea seems willing to admit that they don’t currently possess the capability they’ve been touting for months, as one North Korean official told CNN this week that the nation’s Supreme Leader won’t be willing to turn to diplomacy until North Korea possesses the ability to strike “all the way to the East coast of the mainland U.S.”
“Before we can engage in diplomacy with the Trump administration, we want to send a clear message that the DPRK has a reliable defensive and offensive capability to counter any aggression from the United States,” the official said, according to CNN.
That means, in no uncertain terms, that they currently don’t have a reliable platform that could ferry their warheads across the globe. That does, of course, contradict Kim’s statement in June, saying, “the entire U.S. mainland” is in reach, or the official government statement released through KCNA, a state-owned news outlet, in July.
“We have demonstrated our ability to fire our intercontinental ballistic rocket at any time and place and that the entire U.S. territory is within our shooting range,” the statement ran, citing Kim himself.
Ultimately, all this proves is something we already knew – that North Korean statements aren’t to be trusted, but it is unusual for state officials to contradict a statement made by Kim, especially one made so often and recently. It also suggests that more long range ballistic missile tests will be forthcoming, as it’s more clear now than ever that Kim sees nuclear tipped ICBMs as a shortcut to being taken seriously at the negotiating table – and if he doesn’t have them now, you can be sure he’ll continue to push for them to the dismay of the international community, and the suffering of his own people, until he does.
Image courtesy of the Associated Press