North Korea Won’t Stop Its Arms Tests Anytime Soon, South Korea Warns
“Re-entry is a question North Korea must solve to boost its negotiating leverage and for its military and technological purposes,” Shin Beom-chul, a security analyst, said in a report published over the weekend by the government-run Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security in Seoul. “For North Korea, there is a big difference between entering negotiations with the United States after acquiring full ICBM capabilities and starting such talks without them.”
North Korea wants Washington to recognize it as a nuclear weapons state.
With that status, analysts said, the North would seek arms-reduction talks in hopes of gaining concessions from Washington, such as easing sanctions and reducing the American military presence around the Korean Peninsula. In return, Pyongyang could offer to freeze or give up its ICBMs while retaining the rest of its nuclear capabilities, analysts said.
So far, all the North’s three ICBM tests have taken place in the sea between North Korea and Japan. Though the missiles soared to extremely high altitudes, demonstrating their power, they never flew beyond Japan.
Analysts warned that in its next long-range missile test, the North could launch a missile on a full ICBM trajectory and even carry a live nuclear warhead to demonstrate its mastery of warhead re-entry technology.
“The North’s seventh nuclear test could take place not underground but over the Pacific,” said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior analyst, in a report published by the independent Sejong Institute of South Korea.
In September, North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, vowed to take the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” after President Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” if it continued to threaten the United States and its allies. The North’s foreign minister, Ri Yong-ho, later said Mr. Kim might be considering an atmospheric hydrogen bomb test over the Pacific Ocean.
The United Nations Security Council has slapped North Korea with four rounds of sanctions this year alone, seeking to deprive the country of key sources of hard currency by banning its exports of coal, iron ore and sea products and phasing out the use of North Korean workers abroad. It also tried to squeeze the North’s fuel supplies by demanding that member nations drastically reduce exports of refined oil to North Korea.