Alwaght- In the early morning of Saturday, North Korea test-fired a number of short-range missiles from its Hodo peninsula near the east coast town of Wonsan to the northeastern direction. The missile launch was the first since Pyongyang engaged in talks of denuclearization last year with the US. The move is seen as a clear message to the American officials after the North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un has recently started a set of diplomatic activism marked by a visit to Russia and meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Pyongyang-Washington goals of negotiations
After two rounds of talks between Kim and trump, one held in Singapore and the other in Vietnam, Washington and Pyongyang have failed to reach an agreement. The US pushes for full destruction of the North’s nuclear facilities. Washington seeks to implement a disarmament path first time unveiled in 2004 by John Bolton, the current national security advisor at Trump administration. The strategy calls for Kim to fully hand over nuclear arms to the US.
When the North strongly rejected the idea, the US president tried to move away from the path to persuade Kim for an agreement. Bolton in several occasions talked about White House's aim to implement Libya denuclearization model in North Korea, remarks which met firm rejection.
Trump’s special representative to North Korea negotiations Stephen Biegun before Trump-Kim Hanoi summit asked the North to give a full list of its nuclear facilities to the US.
North Korea, on the other side, has two key demands: First, lifting all sanctions or at least lifting five key parts of them and second moving the US forces out of the Korean Peninsula in return for some promises by Pyongyang that would include halting the nuclear and missile tests and implementing a step-by-step denuclearization process.
The US insistence on disarmament before any move to lift the embargo or give any other privileges has created a notion among the North Korean advisors and decision makers that the US essentially pursues their surrender and even toppling the government in Pyongyang.
North Korea shifts approach
Washington thinks that continued pressures along with some time will make the North Korean leader succumb to all of the Trump administration’s demands. Commenting on Hanoi summit, Trump said Kim Jong-un was not ready for denuclearization. Shortly after the February bilateral, North Korea warned it would review strategy in nuclear talks. Choe Son-hui, the Deputy foreign minister of North Korea, in mid-March said: “We have no intention to yield to the US demands in any form, nor are we willing to engage in negotiations of this kind.”
Pyongyang struggles to persuade Washington to accept talks in equal conditions. The North Korea’s leader in his latest comments said he will give the Americans until the end of the year to reach a bilaterally-acceptable solution. All of Pyongyang’s arrangements and diplomatic activities over the past few months were to show that it will not bow to the pressures and on the contrary, it will take stronger actions in response gradually. The moves increased since March when Kim addressed the Workers Party of Korea’s Central Committee. In his speech, the leader talked about self-reliance in the confrontation of the sanctions which, he continued, will deal a blow to the “miscalculated plans of the enemy” to bring Pyongyang to the knees.
Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies in mid-April reported that satellite imagery of North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear site from 12 April showed five specialized railcars near its uranium enrichment facility and radiochemistry laboratory.
“In the past, these specialized railcars appear to have been associated with the movement of radioactive material or reprocessing campaigns,” the report said. “The current activity, along with their configurations, does not rule out their possible involvement in such activity, either before or after a reprocessing campaign.”
On April 17, North Korea declared testing “new tactical weapon” that will considerably increase the nation’s combat capabilities. The moves to shift approach reached their peak on Saturday when Pyongyang said it test-fired short-range missiles.
New missile test message
North Korea is well aware of the US game and campaign of propaganda. So, on the one hand, it so far made clear its objectives in the negotiations and expressed readiness to continue the dialogue to avoid being labeled a deal breaker by the Americans and on the other hand exhibited its hard power to highlight the reality that there will be no surrender.
The new missile test tells the US that Pyongyang can very easily withdraw the concession of stopping its missile tests as a good faith move to allow the negotiations to go ahead. If the US, on the other side, has any intention of making concessions, it will pass it to Kim through its allies, mainly South Korea. South Korea security has been a pretext for anti-Pyongyang sanctions. So, another message is sent to Seoul by the missile test. Wonsan, the site of the latest missile launch, is in Kangwon province which borders South Korea. Seoul earlier warned that Pyongyang was renovating a missile test site which was promised to be closed. The missile launch was significant for South Korea, to an extent that the defense minister, intelligence chief, and presidential advisors met to discs it. Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha talked to the US Secretary of State over the phone. They agreed to “cautiously respond” to the latest test.
On April 25, Kim met Russia’s Putin. This meeting is seen as giving the Russian role in the Korean Peninsula talks a boost beside China and was effective in Pyongyang’s change of behavior after the Hanoi summit and before the missile test. Anyway, what will be expected the most after the new missile firing is the mystery that will overshadow the future of Trump-Kim talks.