The Japan Forum on International Relations

March 28,2018

Kim Jong Un Will Never Let the “National Treasure” Nuclear Missile Taken Away

The reconciliation policy of Mr. Moon Jae-in, the president of the Republic of Korea, towards North Korea will only result in a situation, frankly speaking, that North will take what they want and gives nothing back. Kim Jong Un seems to be struggling from the United Nations’ economic sanction, so he encourages the Korean Summit Meeting between the North and the South to be held, and propagates the completion of their nukes and missiles to celebrate their 70th Anniversary of the Day of the Foundation of the Republic in September, to avoid the worsening of the economy. President Moon is the one who’s been influenced. Meanwhile, if the United States let Mr. Moon go with his reconciliation policy, and follows to compromise with North Korea, in exchange of freezing the testing of the intercontinental ballistic missiles, Japan, of which 200 nodong missiles are aimed, will possibly be left behind. The US’ Far Eastern strategy will not work if Japan is alienated. It seems that Kim is struggling and trying to make a strategic change by himself, though it would be the path once his father had come, he would just take the path to deceive the international community. But the US must know that. Ms. Ivanka, the daughter of President Trump, has reminded President Moon at the dinner of his appeasing stance towards North. “We would like to reconfirm that we maintain the maximum pressure on the Korean Peninsula until it gets de-nuclearized,” she said to Mr. Moon. President Moon pledged in response that “the de-nuclearization and the South-North dialogue cannot go separately; the two must be done simultaneously.” Mr. Moon tends to make a good face to both sides, but his real aim is to realize the Korean Summit, which would only make him to be affected by the North’s influence.

North Korea’s diplomacy seems skillful at a glance, yet it always gives itself away. Sending his own sister, Kim Yo-jong as his envoy, showed their struggle that they had no one else in their diplomatic resource but family. This was because the North was urged to show their seriousness to President Moon. The author may not be the only one feeling the coldness behind Kim Yo-jong’s “smile diplomacy.” Successfully influenced Moon, Kim Yo-jong returned and reported to Kim Jong Un, and it was seen that Kim Jong Un made a specific direction to further improve the Korean relations -one of which was the freezing of ICBM test launch. By halting the ICBM tests that fly over Japan, they are appealing to the international community, trying to get the US’ attention. Of course, they will not abandon their missile development and can continue their program domestically. North Korea’s this pseudo-detente comes from the impact of the UN sanctions that has gradually been working. The government of Japan has confirmed the off-shore delivering between the North Korean and Dominican registered tankers at the international waters in the East China Sea. The impact of the UN resolution on the sanction against North Korea will be clearer later this year, as North has started to work on such struggling, hole-finding deeds.

Kim, however, wants to avoid such impact no matter what. Considering the upcoming 70th Anniversary of the Day of the Foundation of the Republic, the most important day there, on September 9, the worsening of the economy is the last thing he wants in order to maintain his authority. Using the President Moon’s reconciliation policy, the North probably wants to earn the economic assistance by realizing the Korean Summit in prior to the 70th Anniversary. Ultimately, it is needless to say that they aim to contact with the US. The Unification Ministry spokesperson of the ROK is trying to promote the direct US-North Korea talk already with no concerns, by voicing that they “hope the North Korea and the US will initiate a constructive talk at an appropriate timing.” But Japan and the US cannot afford to observe and do nothing while President Moon getting caught by the trap set by Kim Jong Un. Historically, the negotiation with the North is a pattern -once they get economic assistance, they annul the agreement with no hesitation. The agreements such as the freezing of the testing of the long range ballistic missiles agreed between the US, suspension of the uranium enrichment at the nuclear facility in Nyeongbyeon where kept under international surveillance, were annulled long ago, and this time, too, they seem to be using the same hand as if they know what they’re doing.

The whole issue comes down to the point if the North would give up their nuclear missile development. If they don’t, the Far East will continue to face “the madman with a knife” situation. The North, however, will not abandon their nuclear missile program. Therefore, if the US-North Korea talk happens, it’s not only expected to make compromise, but rather likely continue to break. This is because the nuclear missile is, for Kim Jong Un, a national treasure per se, that if he gives it up, the regime would not sustain. Japan and the US must work to seal the weak spot of the Japan-US-ROK cooperation, expanded by President Moon.

(This is the English translation of an article written by SUGIURA Masaaki, Political Commentator, which originally appeared on the e-forum “Hyakka-Seiho (Hundred Flowers in Full Bloom)” of JFIR on February 27, 2018.)