Throughout months of heightening tensions between Kim Jong Un’s North Korean regime and a U.S. led group of nations intent on seeing the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, the cost of peace for the North Korean people has been clear: the complete removal of Kim’s nuclear capabilities. Now, however, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said that he no longer believes that rapid denuclearization is possible due to the level of advancement Kim’s weapons program has achieved in the past year.
“If talks begin to resolve the North Korea nuclear issue, I feel it will be realistically difficult for North Korea to completely destroy its nuclear capabilities when their nuclear and missile arsenal are at a developed stage,” Moon said in a briefing released by South Korea’s Blue House.
“If so, North Korea’s nuclear program should be suspended, and negotiations could go on to pursue complete denuclearization.”
North Korea’s nuclear ambitions predate Kim Jong Un’s leadership, but it wasn’t until just recently that the nation has begun making rapid advancements in their nuclear capabilities. A series of atomic detonation tests culminated in September with what experts believe was almost certainly a hydrogen bomb, which marks a significant leap in destructive power over the first five tests, or anything previously believed to be in Kim’s arsenal.
If Moon is right, that would mean a potential North Korean conflict may only be avoided through a nuclear deal similar to that brokered with Iran. Many have voiced concerns that North Korea would be reluctant to enter any such deal, however, due to President Trump’s conspicuous distaste for how the Iranian deal was brokered. If no such agreement could be met, the size of North Korea’s nuclear program and their ability to move ICBMs using converted timber trucks provided by the Chinese would likely mean Kim’s nuclear arsenal could only be secured via an invasion force, rather than through targeted strikes.
Meanwhile, North Korea has doubled down on the narrative that it is merely looking out for its own sovereign security in the face of a bullying U.S. military. In a letter delivered to U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres this week, North Korean U.N. Ambassador Ja Song-nam said the United States was “running amok for war exercises by introducing nuclear war equipment in and around the Korean Peninsula.”
The complaint, which was spurred by a massive show of force off of the Korean Peninsula that saw participation from three Nimitz class carrier strike groups and a slew of ships from both the Japanese and South Korean navies, wasn’t the first time North Korea attempted to shoe-horn the word “nuclear” into its characterization of the American military presence in the region. While America’s carriers are indeed nuclear powered, their presence does not indicate a threat of a potential nuclear strike. Similarly, weeks ago, North Korea accused America’s B-1B Lancer Bombers of conducting test runs for a nuclear strike, despite the fact that the Lancer is not a nuclear-capable platform.
Image courtesy of the Associated Press