Recent analysis on the CSIS satellite photos found that North Korea’s Dongchang-ri missile test site has been repaired back to normal, with activities indicating that the regime is making preparation either for a rocket launch or an engine test at the site. U.S. National Security advisor John Bolton said Washington is precisely monitoring North Korea’s activities, without a blink of an eye. The South Korean government said it is closely watching all developments in the North such as the possibility of Pyongyang’s preparation for missile launch, and the floor leader of Seoul’s ruling party also called it “a matter of a grave concern.”
It is unclear what the recent developments in the North are intended for, but it is likely that the communist country is expressing its complaints against the Trump administration since the failed U.S.-North summit in Hanoi. Seoul and Washington are worried that this might lead to actual provocations instead of falling short either as a temporary tantrum or a saber-rattling designed to boost bargaining power. In fact, U.S. President Donald Trump is expressing a great deal of disappointment towards the communist regime. Journalists in the U.S. are considering it noteworthy that the U.S. president is not dismissing Dongchang-ri’s restoration as “fake news.”
Resorting to military muscle-flexing or brinkmanship to escalate tensions to the extremes was a long-standing gambit of North Korea that it pulled whenever agreements went awry or its demands were not met. The intention behind it was to change the direction of policies towards North Korea by reminding its neighbors of the seriousness of North Korean nuclear program, and in fact, making such a fuss proved to work several times in the past. The recent developments in Dongchang-ri are a typically North Korean response to Washington’s proposal for a “big deal” aimed at a complete dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and nuclear materials, as well as its biochemical arsenal.
Once the North makes moves at Dongchang-ri, be it a rocket launch or an engine test, it is highly probable that the regime will present an unreasonable case that it is working on a satellite for peaceful use rather than a military missile. Or it could be a long-term psychology war designed to announce the North’s plan to launch a satellite and ratchet up the levels of threat gradually until the North Korean leader’s birthday (April 15). In 2012, Pyongyang signed the February 29 agreement thereby suspending its nuclear and missiles tests in return for food aid, but it pressed ahead with a long-range rocket test, claiming, “peaceable satellites launch is a separate matter.” However, the international community has never recognized validity of such claim.
There cannot be any nuclear or space technology for peaceful use in North Korea. The nuclear and rocket technologies applicable to nuclear power generation or space vehicles are only permitted to normal states that comply with international rules; therefore, they can never be reserved for such a rogue, criminal nation like North Korea, which feeds on provocations. Moreover, the Trump administration won’t turn a blind eye to the vicious cycle of North Korean nukes where threats and provocations are compensated with negotiations only to be followed by more provocations. It is vital that the North puts an end to its self-destructive impulse, which might bring doom to all the progress they made in dialogue with Washington.