North Korea has perfected the art of provocation on its way to becoming a nuclear weapon state. Kim Jong Un, leader of the Hereditary Dictatorship, demonstrated this this weekend when he challenged US President Joe Biden. While the United States was commemorating the victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York, Kim’s military claimed to be testing a new type of cruise missile that can reach far-flung targets.
The calculation behind this weapon test was to avoid harsher sanctions and yet underline North Korea’s claim to nuclear power and the simultaneous powerlessness of the United States. Because the United Nations (UN) have only banned China’s protégé from testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, but not testing cruise missiles.
At the same time, North Korea’s KCNA news agency triumphantly reported that the cruise missiles were “a strategic weapon of great importance”. According to experts, North Korea signals with this definition that the cruise missiles can carry nuclear warheads.
Whether this is true is another question. But North Korea is achieving three goals at once:
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Internally, with its slow nuclear build-up, the government is strengthening its own claim to rule as the country’s defender against “enemy forces”.
In addition, it does not offend the protective power of China or the helpful South Koreans. This is an important point for the ailing country, which maneuvered itself deeper into the crisis by closing its borders during the pandemic.
Third, the regime is trying to increase pressure on Biden to enter into a dialogue with North Korea.
Biden recently sent his special envoy for North Korea, Sung Kim, to South Korea for talks. The United States and their South Korean allies even talked about aid deliveries, the partners said.
Nevertheless, it is still not clear how Biden intends to solve a problem that every one of his predecessors failed to solve. Nuclear disarmament, which the US and the UN are calling for, is just as unrealistic today as it was in the past. Hardly anyone believes that nuclear weapons are still a bargaining chip for Kim, not even when his people are starving, as they are now.
Against this background, the current stalemate creates some time to explore the space for discussion. But the question remains, how long the tension will only grow subliminally. The world should be prepared for a new Korean crisis.
More: The Thucydides Trap Myth: A War Between China And The United States Is Avoidable