North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un announced that his country is renouncing the moratorium placed on its nuclear and long-range missile tests. The moratorium had been put into effect during the talks with the United States.
Despite this reversal, Kim pledged that he was still open to further discussions with the U.S.
During his speech, he also said that North Korea is pursuing further developments and most notably will seek to introduce a “new strategic weapon” in the near future, though he did not offer any additional information.
The announcement came after a four-day meeting of officials of the Workers’ Party of Korea, which governs the country. Kim had previously called for the United States to offer further concessions before any further progress; the U.S. government had refused.
Despite temporarily suspending joint drills with South Korea, the United States has recently resumed them and continued to levy sanctions on the cash-strapped north.
Accusing the U.S. of “gangster-like demands,” Kim went on to state that “under such condition, there is no ground for us to get unilaterally bound to the commitment any longer, the commitment to which there is no opposite party, and this is chilling our efforts for worldwide nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.”
Before heading to Florida for New Year celebrations, President Donald Trump seemed largely unconcerned. He said that he believes that Kim is “a man of his word” and will abide by his stated intentions during the meeting of the two in Singapore back in June 2018.
The current situation points to a probable outcome whereby the cycle of threats, pledges and non-progress will likely continue.
At its root is the fundamental disagreement over what the two sides want and are willing to give up: With the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the toppling of Col. Gaddafi in Libya in 2011 and the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Iran deal, North Korea is adamant in never wanting to give up its nuclear arsenal in order to safeguard the survival of its regime.
Continued escalation with Iran, during the Trump presidency particularly, has given the North Koreans considerable cause for pause. Recent attacks on Iran-backed militia, along with the general increase in tensions with a state that signed an agreement with the U.S., means that the DPRK will want to fortify its military position before all else.
Ahead of the 2020 election, Trump might want to achieve concrete measures in order to boost his odds of being re-elected. Lack of any substantial progress undermines his desired image of being someone “who gets stuff done.” However, since the U.S. electorate tends to be overwhelmingly focused on domestic affairs, such as the economy and healthcare, North Korea is unlikely to be a topic of major concern unless Washington and Pyongyang enter another round of rhetorical attacks.
Failure to achieve any steps towards denuclearization on a bilateral basis will enhance Russian and Chinese prominence on the issue.
While further nuclear development and advancement of North Korea’s arsenal is likely, the testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles is less so since it would anger Russia and China.