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The Peril of Forgetting the Threat That Pyongyang Poses
North Korean People's Army soldiers march on September 9, 2018, in Pyongyang, North Korea, as part of a parade celebrating the seventieth anniversary of the nation's founding. (Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)
(Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

The Peril of Forgetting the Threat That Pyongyang Poses

Patrick M. Cronin

As the spectre of conflict over Taiwan dominates regional security concerns, less attention is being paid to the dangers posed by Pyongyang. That would be a mistake.

Unrestrained by big powers or inter-Korea diplomacy, North Korea may embark on a reckless expansion of its nuclear forces. Its leader Kim Jong Un may even be tempted to leverage nuclear weapons for aims other than regime survival.

China began to ease pressure on Pyongyang shortly after Mr Kim proclaimed an end to his intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) programme in late 2017. North Korea’s apparent hydrogen bomb test and successful Hwasong-15 ICBM test that year suggested a plausible ability to threaten the United States with nuclear weapons. It was easy for Beijing to support North Korea when it was actively engaged in high-level diplomacy. But Mr Kim’s ambitions have multiplied as China-US relations have sunk to new lows. The danger is that Beijing appears to be giving Pyongyang a blank cheque.

An Emboldened Pyongyang

Pyongyang’s latest brazenness can be heard in the acrid comments of Mr Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong. Earlier this month, she insulted South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and derided his “audacious plan” to develop the North’s economy in exchange for denuclearisation as “the height of absurdity”.

The Kim family spent years resisting most of the dovish appeals of the Moon Jae-in administration. It has no intention of returning to old proposals it has already rejected. A mere 100 days into the Yoon administration, Ms Kim insinuated that Pyongyang will not dismantle its nuclear weapons at any price.

Read the full article in the Straits Times.

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