Photo: AP

Kim Jong Un knows how to draw global attention. He test-fires a few missiles that means he is angry. He is again at loggerheads with the US President. The foes-turned-friends last year at the summit in Singapore have developed differences since February this year following the meeting of the two leaders which ended in a no deal. Now, North Korea’s displeasure has been expressed in its recent tests of short-range projectiles and missiles earlier this month, the first missile test launch since 2017.

The North Korea missile program reached its zenith when Pyongyang successfully test-fired three inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBM). With the successful test of Hwasong-15 which was launched in November 2017, the experts believed it could hit much of the United States. Once assured of a deterrent, capable enough to protect the estranged country, Kim expressed his willingness to negotiate. Soon he met with his South Korean and US counterparts.

As 2018 saw some progress in the thaw of relations between the communist state and the US, the talks stalled this year when each side demanded more from the other. So, the second meeting in Vietnam’s capital ended up in a deadlock, leading President Trump to say following the talks’ failure that “sometimes you have to walk.” In the meeting, Pyongyang pushed for more sanctions’ relief, its persisting demands since the resumption of talks, in exchange for denuclearization. While the US demanded more access to ensure the transparency and the truthfulness of the promises made by Kim (Joeng & Hollingworth, 2019). Besides, the US State Department was concerned over the human rights abuse in North Korea, where there are as many as around 100,000 political prisoners and if any defector is found fleeing the country, he is often tortured and killed. Responding to this, North Korea blames that the US was never sincere in improving relations and that its ulterior motive to overthrow its system was always there (Johnson, 2019).

North Korea again launched two short-range missiles on May 9 after the first such test on May 4, provoking the US Administration and signaling the return of the decades-old rivalry between the two countries that has its roots in the breakup of the Korean Peninsula. And the recent tests seem to be the reminder by Kim that whatever transpired in Hanoi this February was not acceptable to him.

Nevertheless, both Trump and Kim still believe in the possibility of a deal that the latter insists should be based on changed negotiating stance, if the US wants to make any peaceful solution realistic.

In addition, the Secretary of the State and even the US President have downplayed the recent developments emanating from the Korean Peninsula, saying that the recent missile launch was not meant to threaten the US or its regional allies, South Korea and Japan. They maintain that Kim’s only promise was not to test ICBMs, which he has kept so far. President Bush is still optimistic about the possibility of a deal with North Korean leader, trivializing the missile tests as a ‘very standard stuff’, adding that he is still in good terms with Kim. But that he is not sure about the future of their relationship (2019).

“3 Kims And 6 U.S. Presidents Later, Diplomacy Can Still Solve The North Korea Crisis.” Said Siegfried Hecker

 

The recent conflict has its roots in recent history. Following the World War 2, The Korean Peninsula was divided, with the Soviet Union influencing and setting up the communist regime in the North, while the Southern part coming under the US control (Pruitt, 2019).

However, Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist believes in the formidability of North Korea as a developing nuclear state. What he does not believe is the possibility of Kim using it against the US. Simply because he considers the North Korean leader is not crazy. The only reason for Kim’s reckless pursuit of nuclearization is basically to use it as a deterrent against any possible US aggression. For Hecker, Kim is a tyrant but not mad. He cites history as proof that the two states have gone through the worst of times, but still managed to avoid a war. He concludes that it is the US that needs to engage the estranged leader through effective diplomacy (Hecker, 2017).