Christmas has come and gone, and now we are in the New Year. And the US along with other nations, have merrily celebrated both Christmas and the New Year. And good for the US, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has not delivered his “promised” Christmas “gift” to the US.
An amused US President Donald Trump who has the knack of turning a threat into a joke, while addressing troops has said that the Korean “gift” could be a vase. It is not known how Kim has taken the joke, but wiser counsel prevailed and he has desisted from escalating the situation by not experimenting any new strategic weapon.
Now the year 2019 has ended and the year 2020 has dawned, a restless North Korean leader has once again revived his threat with a warning to the US. He has accused the Trump administration of sitting on negotiations regarding nuclear issues and not lifting the sanctions. Kim has warned that North Korea would soon show a new strategic weapon to the world while it faces the stubborn US sanctions and pressure on its nuclear program.
Speaking during the four-day ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) conference in Pyongyang that concluded on December 31, Kim said that his country could never be cowed down with economic sanctions by the US on the issue of nuclear program. The latest threat Kim has issued is that his country would not compromise on its security and would not give up its nuclear program for economic benefits. Kim has warned that if the US continues its hostility towards North Korea, there would never be the denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. He has claimed that his country would continue to develop strategic weapons for its security until the US withdraws its hostile policy.
North Korea has announced recently that it had conducted two “crucial” tests at its long-range rocket launch site that would further strengthen its nuclear deterrent, prompting speculation that it was developing an inter-continental ballistic missile or planning a satellite launch that would boost its missile technologies. As part of its nuclear program, North Korea tested its largest long-range missile – Hwasong-15 – in 2017 which is capable of reaching the United States. With the presence of the US troops already in the Peninsula, North Korea has become insecure and started pursuing nuclear and missile programs aimed at the US and South Korea as its targets. Consequently, the US, with the support of the United Nations, imposed economic sanctions to tame North Korea.
It may be recalled that amid simmering rift between the US and North Korea, there were vain attempts in the past by former US Presidents like Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama to meet North Korean leaders to defuse the nuclear stand-off. Interestingly the first indication of Trump’s willingness to meet Kim came to light when Trump interrupted a visiting trio of top South Korean officials in the Oval Office in Washington, DC, on March 8, 2018 as they analyzed an offer from the North Korean Chairman for possible diplomatic options.
In a quick succession, top diplomatic officials of the US and North Korea had met several times. Consequently, though some unpleasant messages were exchanged between them, the first summit between Kim and Trump took place in Singapore on June 12, 2018. Following the Singapore summit, Kim and Trump met twice – one on a summit level in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 27–28, 2019 and another, a surprise informal meet, in the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone on the border of the two Koreas in June 2019. In all Trump met Kim thrice – two summits and one informal meet.
The summits and the informal meet have not shown any tangible progress towards the Korean peninsula peace process as Trump and his team have felt that Kim has not done enough to consider lifting of sanctions wholly or partly. Trump had very little trust in Kim’s claims, as the US intelligent reports indicate that Kim, while seemingly dismantling some nuclear installations, has actually been developing new ones. Kim on the other hand feels that Trump is a stubborn person and vows not to consider any further meetings with the latter. But Trump has often expressed optimism and called Kim a “good friend.”
While taking tough stand, Kim has not given any clear indication of abandoning negotiations with the United States entirely or restarting tests of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles which he had suspended under a self-imposed moratorium in 2018. However, he warns there is no ground for North Korea to maintain unilateral moratorium. He criticized the US for continuing joint military exercises with South Korea and arming it with latest weaponry.
Internationally, peace-loving countries do not want the US and North Korea return to such confrontation that existed two years ago, while China and Russia hoped that the UN Security Council lift some sanctions to break the present deadlock between the US and North Korea.
In the US, 2020 being the presidential election year, Trump as the incumbent President is drowned in umpteen domestic and international issues. As Trump is busy campaigning for a second term in office, while facing crucial impeachment proceedings, the latest developments with Iran, including a pro-Iran demonstrates’ attack on the US embassy in Baghdad, are adding to his cup of woes. Under the present circumstances, North Koreans and Iranians “sense vulnerability” of Trump. Will the Trump administration find a solution to the threats the US is facing from North Korea and Iran?
– Contributed by Mr. J.V. Laskshmana Rao, a former National News Coordinator of Express News Service, New Delhi, and former Chief Editor of US-based India Tribune. He frequently travels between India and the US.
Picture Credits: KCNA / Reuters