See More on Facebook

Diplomacy

Is Kim Jong-un considering ‘new way’?

Post Hanoi summit failure, speculation grows on what new mode of defense may be.


Written by

Updated: March 20, 2019

Following the failure to reach an agreement at last month’s summit between the US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi, tension has been building between the two sides, threatening the negotiations that they have built over the past year.

While the breakdown of their second meeting did not lead to a war of words, North Korea said it was considering suspending talks with the United States, while Washington accused Pyongyang of “not doing what it needs to do.”

The communist leader warned in his New Year’s speech this year he would have to find a new way for defending the North if the US did not keep its promises. As the US appears to have no intention of taking the “commensurate measures” the North seeks for the denuclearization steps it has taken, speculation has grown as to whether Kim will take this route.

North Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister Choe Son-hui held a news conference in Pyongyang on Friday, in which she indicated that the country would not yield to the US demands put forward in the Hanoi summit. She added that Kim would soon make an announcement on his country’s direction, to decide on whether to resume missile launches.

“What is clear is that the US has thrown away a golden opportunity,” she said.

Trump and Kim sat down for a two-day summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, from Feb. 27 to 28 to strike an accord on denuclearization. But the talks ended without an agreement, as the two sides failed to narrow their differences over what each side was willing to give.

While Washington demanded North Korea dismantle of all of its nuclear weapons program first, Pyongyang insisted on the lifting of economic sanctions in its “entirety,” while taking incremental steps for denuclearization.

Choe blamed the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton for the summit’s failure, saying they “created an atmosphere of hostility and mistrust,” according to the Russian news agency TASS.

However, the senior diplomat highlighted that the chemistry of Trump-Kim relationship was “mysteriously wonderful.”

Choe’s statement came as satellite images of North Korea’s satellite and missile facilities appear to suggest activities at those sites, triggering concerns that North Korea might break the self-imposed moratorium on missile tests that has lasted for 15 months. North Korea last tested what it claimed to be a hydrogen bomb in September 2017, and launched an intercontinental ballistic missile in what appeared to be a successful test two months later.

Following the reports on satellite images, Trump said that he would be “disappointed” if Kim were really rebuilding the Sohae site.

Reverting to Byungjin policy?

In his New Year’s speech on Jan. 1, Kim expressed a strong determination to end the military hostilities on the Korean Peninsula and vowed to work hard to draw an agreement with the US that could be welcomed by the international community.

The communist leader, however, also warned that if the United States did not provide reciprocal measures — mainly the lifting of sanctions — he would be “compelled to explore a new way of defending the sovereignty of the country and the supreme interests” of the state.”

While signals from the two sides so far indicate that the bilateral talks are still viable, experts cautiously raised the idea that Kim might opt for a “new path,” which some suggest may be a return to Byungjin policy.

“There are different opinions on what the ‘new way’ may be. But North Korea has hinted several times last year that it could return to the Byungjin policy.” Cheong Seong-chang, vice president of research planning at the Sejong Institute, told The Korea Herald.

The Byungjin policy, declared in a plenary session of the Party Central Committee in March 13, aims to promote a parallel development of nuclear weapons and the economy.

In April 2018, the North Korean leader declared the “final victory” of Byungjin strategy and said he would suspend nuclear tests and close nuclear test sites, officially ending the policy.

In a Foreign Ministry Statement issued in November 2018, however, Pyongyang said that it could “revert to its former policy” if the US did not change its position on sanctions.

“The word ‘byungjin’ may appear again and a change in line could be seriously reconsidered,” said the statement carried by the Korea Central News Agency, on Nov. 4.

Seeking new negotiating partner? 

Another “new way” could be for the North to promote its own denuclearization timetable and to negotiate with its allies, China and Russia, who are permanent members of the UN Security Council. The permanent members, which also include France, the UK and the US, hold the power to veto resolutions.

“Pursuing Byungjin policy will only reinforce international sanctions and further isolate the North, and I believe it would be impossible for the North to endure the mounting pressure from the dissatisfied North Korean people much longer,” Hong Min, the director of the North Korean research division at the Korea Institute for National Unification, told The Korea Herald.

There are many reasons why Pyongyang negotiates with the US, Hong said.

The US provides a nuclear umbrella to South Korea and a peace treaty can be signed with the US, a signatory to the 1953 Korean War Armistice Agreement that ended the war on the Korean Peninsula in a cease fire.

However, if North Korea finds the US too difficult a partner in discussing lifting of economic sanctions, while fulfilling the denuclearization commitment at its own pace, it may look for an easier counterpart, Hong said.

“Pursuing the denuclearization commitment with China or Russia could also mean negotiating with the international society. If Kim takes dismantling actions and its allies verify it, how would UNSC be able to maintain its sanctions against the North?” Hong said, adding that international organizations would also have to be involved in the verification process.

Park Won-gon of Handong University also said that Kim’s new way could refer to strengthening relations with China, so that he can follow his own timetable on denuclearization.

“From North Korea’s perspectives, it is taking denuclearizing actions, in its own way, following its own timetable. So if the talks with the US fail, it could take an entirely different way to make a deal with China or Russia and obtain part of its sanctions off,” Park said.

The rocket engine test site at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station, which was partly dismantled last year, is being rebuilt, according to analysis of satellite images. Movements have also been detected at Sanum-dong Research and Development Facility, where ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles are being developed.

As well as ballistic missiles, satellite launches are also regarded as banned under sanctions on North Korea.

Experts cautioned, however, that it is premature to conclude that the negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington to have ended, and that the possibility of North Korea launching a missile or a satellite is low.

“Whether it is a satellite or a missile, launching one would be too risky for Pyongyang, because it would mean giving up its year-long trust-building efforts aimed at being seen as a ‘normal state,’” Hong said.

“Making moves without unveiling the motives behind them is how North Korea has kept the attention of its audience, dramatizing its movements.”



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


The Korea Herald
About the Author: The Korea Herald is the nation’s largest English-language daily and the country’s sole member of the Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy

New coronavirus cases rise to 571 in Chinese mainland

China’s National Health Commission said cases of the new coronavirus pneumonia disease rose to 571 on the Chinese mainland as of Wednesday midnight, including 95 in critical condition, and fatalities rose to 17,  on Thursday morning. Latest on pneumonia epidemic: Cases of the new coronavirus pneumonia disease rose to 571 on the Chinese mainland as of Wednesday midnight, including 95 in critical condition, and fatalities rose to 17, China’s National Health Commission said on Thursday morning. In addition, 393 suspected cases were reported as of Wednesday midnight. All the reported deaths were in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. Outside the mainland, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan each confirmed one case.


By China Daily
January 23, 2020

Diplomacy

Strictest measures enacted to contain viral pneumonia in China

As the pathogen continues to spread, the strictest prevention and control measures are being adopted by the Chinese health authorities for the new strain of coronavirus that has caused a pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan. Chinese health authorities are adopting the strictest prevention and control measures for the new strain of coronavirus that has caused a pneumonia outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei province, as the pathogen continues to spread. On Monday, 77 new confirmed cases of the virus — 2019-nCoV — were reported on the Chinese mainland, bringing the total number of confirmed cases on the Chinese mainland to 291, six of whom died, the National Health Commission said on Tuesday afternoon. Among the new cases, 72 were reported in Hubei province, two in Shanghai a


By China Daily
January 22, 2020

Diplomacy

Wuhan virus: China confirms human-to-human transmission, says medical workers infected

China’s health commission said on Monday (Jan 20)  that medical workers have been infected by the deadly coronavirus first discovered in the central city of Wuhan, confirming it can be transmitted between people. “The current situation is that it is no longer animal to human transmission, but human to human,” said Chinese pulmonologist Zhong Nanshan, who discovered the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) coronavirus in 2003 and now heads an expert panel under the health commission. He cited a case in Guangdong, where the patient had not been to Wuhan but caught the virus from a family member. Dr Zhong also said 14 medical personnel helping with coronavirus patients have been infected by one carrier. “The key to controlling the spread o


By The Straits Times
January 21, 2020

Diplomacy

Trump invites Asean leaders, including Duterte, to summit in US

Donald Trump, the US President has invited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and 11 other leaders of the Asean to a summit to be held in Las Vegas in March. US President Donald Trump has invited Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and 11 other leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to a summit to be held in Las Vegas in March. “The invitation was first conveyed during the Asean-US meeting at the Asean Summit and related summits in Bangkok last November. The United States then reiterated its invitation through a letter dated Jan. 9, 2020,”the Palace said. The Palace also released a copy of Trump’s letter to the Asean leaders dated Nov. 1, given during last year’s Asean summit in Bangkok. “I would also like


By Philippine Daily Inquirer
January 20, 2020

Diplomacy

North Korea beefs up self-defense capabilities in military reorganization

The North have been making many changes ahead of talks. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presided over a meeting of the top military decision-making body to accelerate the development of self-defense capabilities ahead of key events that will decide its national strategy, its state media reported Sunday. Discussions on ways to bolster its military capabilities through organizational restructuring and personnel reshuffle were highlighted during the third expanded meeting of the seventh central military commission of the ruling Workers’ Party. Details on what measures were discussed were not disclosed. “At the meeting, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un


By The Korea Herald
December 23, 2019

Diplomacy

Modi defends citizenship decision

PM Modi says it has nothing to do with Indian Muslims. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, that unity in diversity is integral to India while addressing ‘Aabhar Rally’ at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan today to kick start Bharatiya Janata Party’s Delhi Assembly Elections campaign slated for early next year, amid protests in Delhi and all over the country against the contentious Citizenship Act and the National Register of Citizenship(NRC). Modi raised slogan of ‘vividhta me ekta, Bharat ki visheshta’ (Unity in diversity is India’s speciality). PM Modi while giving his party and government’s view on CAA and NRC said, “Muslims being misled, I have always ensured that documents will never come in way of development schemes and their beneficiaries.” Citizenship law and NRC have nothing to do with Indian Muslims or with Indian citizens, he clarified. “We have never asked


By The Statesman
December 23, 2019