Kim Jong-Un Announces End Of Testing Moratorium

With one speech, Kim Jong-Un has demonstrated the Trump Administration's North Korea policy to have been an utter failure.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un announced yesterday that his nation no longer considered itself bound by the moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile testing that it had imposed on itself roughly two years ago:

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, ​said his country no longer felt bound by its self-imposed moratorium on testing nuclear weapons and long-range ballistic missiles, its official media reported on Wednesday, the strongest indication yet that the country could soon resume such tests.

Mr. Kim also said the world would witness a new strategic weapon “in the near future,” according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, though no details were provided.

North Korea has not conducted a long-range missile test or a nuclear test in more than two years. Mr. Kim had announced his moratorium at a time when he hoped negotiations with the United States — and his budding personal relationship with President Trump — would prompt the United States to begin lifting crippling sanctions.

Mr. Trump, who has met Mr. Kim three times, has often cited the North’s restraint as a major diplomatic achievement. Speaking with reporters Tuesday night at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Mr. Trump said he still had a “very good relationship” with Mr. Kim.

The North had set a Dec. 31 deadline for the United States to make at least some concessions, complaining that its 18 months of diplomacy with Mr. Trump had yielded limited results. And for weeks, American officials feared Mr. Kim might test an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, to make his point.

During the party meeting on Tuesday, Mr. Kim said his country “will shift toa shocking actual action” that will make the United States “pay for the pains sustained by our people,” the North Korean news agency said.

It remained unclear if a test was imminent. It is possible that Mr. Kim’s announcement on Wednesday is, by itself, the warning shot he wants to send to prod Mr. Trump, on the eve of a presidential election year, to begin lifting sanctions.

What this means, of course, is that we’re basically back to where we were two years ago when Kim announced a change in policy that seemed aimed at lessening tensions on the peninsula. After a first year in which the President and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un traded insults and the DPRK conducted nuclear and ballistic missile and threatened war, things seemed to cool down in 2018. For his part, Kim extended an olive branch to the south that resulted in a summit meeting between himself and South Korean President Moon Jae-In that significantly reduced tensions between the two nations. This led to tentative talks between the United States and the DPRK, and ultimately to three meetings between Trump and Kim that, obviously, have resulted in nothing.

Immediately after his first meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, for example, President Trump claimed that there was no longer a nuclear threat from the DPRK because of what happened at the meeting. The evidence since that time, though, it has been clear both that Kim Jong Un did not agree to what Trump claimed and that the summit itself, as well as the two subsequent meetings between the men in Hanoi and at the Demilitarized Zone, were little more than photo opportunities.

The extent to which this statement from Trump was erroneous became apparent only months after that first summit. At that point, it was reported that North Korea was increasing production of the fuel needed to make additional nuclear weapons and that it was concealing the existence of ongoing nuclear weapons research at secret facilities well hidden from both surveillance and, most likely, the ability of the United States to take the sites out in a military strike. Additionally, it became apparent in the days after the summit that the much-publicized destruction of the DPRK’s primary nuclear weapons test site, a much-hyped pre-summit event that was witnessed by American and other international journalists, was much less than met the eye and that the site could easily be rebuilt if needed in the future. Weeks later, we learned that the DPRK had also begun work on the construction of new ballistic missiles at yet another secret site.. Additionally, analysts who have seen satellite images say that the DPRK has made a second large nuclear reactor operational. This type of reactor is capable of making plutonium which is, of course, one of the main fuels used in the production of nuclear weapons. This new reactor can reportedly make four times as much plutonium as North Korea’s current reactor, which has been the source for the plutonium needed for its nuclear arsenal to date. Finally, in the wake of the summit in Hanoi that again appears to have been more hype than hope, it was reported that Pyongyang was making major repairs to a previously abandoned ballistic missile test facility that could be signs that they are planning either a new round of tests or a satellite launch.

As noted, it’s unclear if this is the New Year’s/Christmas “gift” for the United States that Kim has been promising, but it certainly does up the tensions from where they had been. Additionally, this move comes after several months during which the DPRK was conducting short-range missile tests which caused concern in both South Korea and Japan, but which the President dismissed as not a big concern despite the obvious threat they posed to those two American allies. There have also been reports that the North Koreans have been expanding a factory used to construct ballistic missiles and engaging in the testing of ballistic missile engines, the results of which have many observers concerned that the DPRK has made advances in engine design that could be a major step forward in missile development.

All of this goes to show that the Administration’s entire policy, which I’ve previously described as brain-dead, is an abject failure. For the past two years, we’ve basically coddled the DRPK while they did absolutely nothing in return. Now, the one minor piece of progress, the moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile testing, has come to an end and, again, we’ve got nothing to show for it. The result has been that Kim Jong-Un’s stature on the world stage has been enhanced, North Korea has cemented its relationships with China and Russia to the point where both nations are unlikely to agree to new sanctions, a wedge has developed between the United States and its allies in South Korea and Japan, and the DPRK has essentially fooled the United States yet again.

FILED UNDER: Kim Jong Un, National Security, North Korea, North Korean Nuclear Program
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    God, I’m so bored with all this winning.

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  2. Sleeping Dog says:

    @CSK:

    You beat me to it.

    Now we await the inevitable missile or bomb test and cringe at Tiny’s reaction. That could be to do nothing but tweet, which is the best case or…

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  3. CSK says:

    @Sleeping Dog: I’m waiting for Cult45 to react to this, but I keep forgetting that they either blissfully ignore Trump’s policy failures or they simply don’t care about them, because Trump is doing the most important thing of all, and that’s “owning the libtards.”

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  4. Kylopod says:

    @CSK: And the sad thing is that it’s unlikely to hurt Trump with the general public. He got a temporary boost in public support after the 2018 summit, mostly due to the obsequious media reaction where even many outside the Trumpist camp were suggesting some good might come out of it. But the collapse of it will be greeted by rationalizations from the Trumpists and yawns from just about everyone else. Foreign-policy snafus don’t impact public opinion unless the damage is too palpable to ignore. As long as Americans aren’t dying on a large scale, it’s politically a draw.

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  5. Sleeping Dog says:

    @CSK:
    @Kylopod:

    It won’t mean anything to the Trumpkins. The true believers are ignorant of what is happening and the cynical, we got judges and tax cuts, will say nothing or blame Clinton, Bush and Obama. If a war breaks out, which would focus everyone’s attention, Tiny will likely be defeated, perhaps even in the primaries, if that occurs the cynical will begin blaming Tiny, as the civil war for the future of the rethugs will have begun and the establishment will be looking to crush the populist/nationalist. And of course, they’ll be blaming the Dem in the WH.

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  6. Kylopod says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    It won’t mean anything to the Trumpkins.

    Define “Trumpkin.” Are you referring strictly to the MAGA-hat-wearing, lock-her-up chanting cultees? Or are you referring to any of the current ~45% (according to latest Gallup poll) who approve of the president’s job? Those aren’t the same thing. The former are immovable, yes, but they also are not remotely sufficient to ensure his political survival. His outer layer of soft support definitely has the potential to abandon him–they have before–and that’s what matters. I just don’t think that this particular issue is likely to be the breaking point for them.

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  7. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Kylopod:

    I was referencing his total support, that was what I was referencing in for next sentence (below), that there are at least 2 groups of his supporters.

    The true believers are ignorant of what is happening and the cynical, we got judges and tax cuts, will say nothing …

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  8. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:
    @Sleeping Dog:

    I think it’s true that Trump could lose his non-cult support, but it would take something cataclysmic as long as the economy is good. Another factor would be who the Democratic nominee would be. I’m not crazy about Biden, but I think he has a fair chance of beating Trump. Trump would probably clobber Warren, I’m sorry to say.

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  9. Ken_L says:

    Gosh, an outcome that was widely predicted back in 2017 by people who knew what they were talking about! No doubt the Trump Cult will simply deny this, no matter how many published comments from that year they are shown. Moreover they’ll switch back to ‘fire and fury’ mode without missing a beat if Trump and Fox tell them to. Never mind, think how much money America saved by cancelling those military exercises!

    America has tended for decades to over-estimate its influence over events in the Korean peninsula. The most significant thing Trump has done, stripped of all the windbaggery, is signal he wants US troops out of South Korea. Kim and Xi will patiently plan accordingly.

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  10. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Kim and Xi will patiently plan accordingly.

    Don’t leave Moon Jae-in and the South Korean left out of that formation. They have a stake in that outcome.

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  11. Ken_L says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I don’t pretend to follow South Korean politics closely, but I suspect Moon will be lucky to win the next election. Kim and Xi don’t have to worry about those kinds of problems.

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  12. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Ken_L: You’re right on that point. There’s no reason to believe that Moon or any other left-leaning candidate will win the next election. Much like the US, Koreans have tended to elect liberal governments to fix the problems when conservatives have bollixed things up too much. If conservatives could govern rationally, there might never be a need for liberal government at all (provided that people were better than they tend to be, of course).

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