The Yomiuri ShimbunNorth Korea is making progress in the development of new weapons, shaking the U.S.-South Korea alliance, while putting off denuclearization talks with the United States. North Korea’s recent moves cannot be overlooked.
The North launched two short-range ballistic missiles. They flew about 600 kilometers before falling into the Sea of Japan. This provocative action violated the resolutions adopted by the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on the North, and it undermines stability in the region.
The missiles are believed to be new ballistic ones that have been built by improving Russian-made Iskander missiles that are hard to intercept because of their irregular flight path. After observing their launches, Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea, said that these missiles are “of huge eventful significance in developing our armed forces and guaranteeing the security of the country.”
North Korea is also trumpeting its development of a new submarine. It has been pointed out that the new submarine may be able to carry a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). This move seems to be aimed at showing off North Korea’s military buildup and reinforcing its position in talks with the United States.
The problem is that, despite reaching an agreement to resume denuclearization negotiations at an early date in summit talks between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in late June, working-level discussions between the two sides have not yet begun.
It is obvious that Kim is attempting to delay such talks, as he does not want to come under pressure from the United States to pursue actions aimed at complete denuclearization, such as declaring all nuclear weapons and facilities. No change has been seen in his tactics for obtaining such results from direct talks with Trump as the relaxation of sanctions and the preservation of Kim’s regime.
Conduct joint exercises
North Korea has demanded that U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises planned for August be canceled, citing the drills as an excuse for refusing to hold working-level talks. It is also blaming South Korea for introducing more F-35A state-of-the-art stealth fighters from the United States.
The U.S.-South Korea joint exercises have been greatly scaled back in line with Trump’s wishes, as shown by the fact that large-scale field maneuver exercises have been suspended since this spring. The drill planned for August is a tabletop exercise. North Korea is escalating its demands.
The North seems to be trying to find out how far it can go in extracting concessions from the United States, with a view to weakening the U.S.-South Korea alliance.
The U.S. response to the situation is questionable in some respects.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo revealed that Kim had pledged to continue holding back intermediate- and long-range ballistic missile launches at the summit meeting in late June, and he emphasized the promise as an achievement of the talks.
Trump expressed his intention not to regard the latest missile launches as a problem, saying the missiles in question were “short-range” and describing them as being possessed by many countries. South Korea and some parts of Japan lie within shooting range of these missiles, and they present a threat to U.S. military bases as well. This should not be made little of.
The United States and South Korea should steadily carry out their joint exercises to maintain their deterrence against provocative behavior by the North.