Why North Korea’s ICBM Missiles Ruin Any Chance of Peace with US
North Korea’s recent military parade was attended by leader Kim Jong-un and was an opportunity for the regime to restore some pride back to a nation that has had a devastating summer as a result of a long monsoon season and economic damage wrought by the coronavirus.
However, the parade also provided observers with a frightening insight into the militaristic ambitions of its leader.
Dramatic Display of ‘Massive’ Long Range ICBMS
The parade was meant to mark the 75th anniversary of the Workers’ Party, but correspondents say that previously unseen “massive” long range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) were displayed. This is typical of North Korea’s regimes to use parades to show off new missiles and weaponry.
North Korea had not featured ballistic missiles in its parades since US President Donald Trump and his North Korean counterpart held their first summit in 2018.
Pyongyang’s Plans Military Buildup
Kim said during a speech to those who attended the parade that Pyongyang would continue to “strengthen its military for self-defense and deterrence.”
The recent military display was immediately condemned by US officials. One senior US government figure called on Pyongyang to commit itself to total denuclearization immediately.
Meanwhile, experts said that the new, larger ICBM is likely designed to carry multiple independent reentry vehicles (MIRVs), allowing it to attack more targets and making interception more difficult.
Markus Garlauskas, a former US intelligence officer for North Korea, told the Daily Mail that the new ICBM is intended to dispel doubts about Pyongyang’s ability to strike the US, and that they are preparing to test the missile.
The US-North Korean Peace Process is Over
Either way, North Korea’s military parade is a clear sign that the US-North Korean peace process that Trump has been overseeing for the last two years is over. Victor Cha, who was the director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council from 2004 to 2007, believes that Trump cannot hope to achieve a successful outcome in North Korea without the help of China. Yet a coordinated response between Washington and Beijing to end Pyongyang’s nuclear program seems out of the question for now.
Both Trump’s 18-month trade war with China and the coronavirus have caused US-Chinese relations to reach an all-time low, and over the weekend Beijing proved that it has no interest in persuading Kim to scale back his military ambitions. In a congratulatory message to the North Korean leader for the anniversary, Chinese President Xi Jinping said that he intended to ‘defend, consolidate and develop ties’ with North Korea.
At a time when the world seems to be turning against China, Beijing has few allies left and it is no wonder that they are keen to develop their relationship with North Korea.
Trump deserves a lot of credit for his extraordinary efforts to bring peace to the Korean peninsular. He has been accused of sucking up to dictators by his opponents, but he is the first US president to enter North Korea by taking 20 steps into the nation.
Ending Pyongyang’s Nuclear Program is No Longer a Realistic Goal
Also, Trump almost succeeded in securing an agreement with Kim during the Hanoi summit in February, but he failed to do so because the US president would not compromise on sanctions relief.
Despite this, Kim expressed his willingness over the weekend to foster peaceful relations with South Korea. Whoever wins the US election in November should prioritize ending the hostilities between Seoul and Pyongyang, as ending the latter’s nuclear program seems like an unrealistic prospect. One benefit of such a policy could be that it slowly steers North Korea away from Chinese influence.
The Trump administration is paralyzed at the moment and it cannot continue to develop its foreign policy toward North Korea until the outcome of the US election has been decided. Unless the next US president can defy all odds and commit Pyongyang to an agreement that cuts back its nuclear weapons, thwarting Kim’s military ambitions seems like a lost cause now. Fostering peaceful relations between Pyongyang and Seoul, however, could be achieved as long as Kim does not go back on his word, and many observers know he is renowned for that.