Earlier this month, North Korea promised the U.S. that it would deliver a “Christmas gift” if there wasn’t progress in talks that have been dragging on for more than a year. They accused Washington of dragging its feet, wasting North Korea’s time for political gain.
“The dialogue touted by the US is, in essence, nothing but a foolish trick hatched to keep the DPRK bound to dialogue and use it in favor of the political situation and election in the US,” Ri said, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“It is entirely up to the US what Christmas gift it will select to get,” added Ri.
Most Pentagon experts believe that the NoKos will test another long-range missile, which will certainly have South Korea and Japan on edge.
Administration officials are closely monitoring satellite imagery for signs that North Korea may soon conduct a new round of weapons testing to deliver the “Christmas gift” that Pyongyang’s officials have promised the US if it doesn’t ease up on sanctions.
Due to North Korean measures to hide activities at several sites, the US cannot be certain what North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may order to be tested, one official said. One scenario suggests a test of a long-range missile or launch of a satellite on a long-range booster.
Few expect a nuclear test of some kind, but anything is possible.
Asked about recent comments and indicators from North Korea that Pyongyang may be getting closer to a long-range missile test or some other provocative act, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said Friday that the Pentagon does not “discuss any intelligence or indicators” on what the US may be seeing in the way of preparations by North Korea.
He added, though, that through the public statements of its officials, “North Korea has indicated a variety of things … so we are prepared for whatever” Pyongyang may do.
Kim has set a year-end deadline to reach some kind of deal on sanctions relief and North Korea’s nuclear program. That deadline has little chance of being met, although there is still some hope that enough progress can be made to keep the process going.
John Bolton, for one, thinks Kim is toying with Trump.
“We’ll just have to wait and see,” he added. “But this is all part of the North Korean playbook. They’ve successfully jived the three prior American administrations, and they plan to do the same with this one.”
Bolton—a foreign policy hawk who has pushed for regime change in North Korea—repeated previous assertions that the country will never give up its nuclear weapons voluntarily. “There’s simply no evidence, and there never has been for decades, that they are making a strategic decision not to proceed,” he told NPR.
“And the nature of the way North Korea wants to negotiate, what they call ‘action for action,’ invariably benefits the would-be nuclear weapons state because they get economic benefits that are much more important to them than the minimal concessions they make on the nuclear side,” Bolton explained.
That much has been self-evident all along. The question is, how bad might things get in North Korea without massive amounts of foreign aid?
Kim has very cautiously tested economic reforms in the last year. He has proceeded slowly but has made significant changes.
The shift in North Korea’s approach to Mt. Kumgang also says several important things about North Korea’s economic strategy and thinking. First, it shows that the government no longer sees South Korean investment projects such as Kumgang and Kaesong as primary drivers of growth. Even though Kim has not made any overarching, groundbreaking economic reforms to shift the economic system towards a market economy, his economic thinking is clearly different from that of his father, Kim Jong Il, who preferred to see economic growth come from special economic zones with little North Korean involvement in operations.
In short, Kim may try to get North Korea out of the economic straitjacket his family put the economy in by bringing in market reforms. Can he do this and continue to develop his nuclear program? It appears he’s going to try.