The Center for Strategic and International Studies announced Wednesday that there were movements appear to be associated with the movement of radioactive material or reprocessing campaigns near North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear research facility. A satellite imagery acquired by the U.S. thinktank on Friday shows five specialized railcars near the facility, which appear to be relevant to the movement of radioactive material or reprocessing activities. The exposure of such specialized railcars can be seen as North Korea’s intention to pressure the U.S., raising the possibility of operating the nuclear facilities.
Since the Hanoi summit broke off on February 28, North Korea’s stance has continued to engage with U.S. President Donald Trump by dialogue but increasing provocations to gain response from the U.S. The recent movements are seen as efforts to increase tensions given Trump’s recent comments that he is in no hurry to rush talks with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong Un. In a similar vein, Kim also recently paid a visit to a military base for the first time in five months.
On the other hand, North Korea continues to close its doors to South Korea as well. Pyongyang has refused to talk to Seoul while unilaterally cut off talks on private sector including business developments from early this month. It has blamed South Korea for the breakdown of the U.S.-North Korean talks, intending the Moon Jae-in Administration to play the role of a pacifier. Similarly, the North Korean leader has also explicitly denounced South Korea for being “too nosey,” demanding to take its side. In a recently published book titled “Kim Jong Un: A great man” on Friday, Kim is referred to as “a man from heaven.” This shows that he is desperately striving to reinforce his authority at home to the extent of replicating antiquated practices facing continued economic sanctions.
When such plans reach limits, Kim Jong Un will likely create a sense of crisis, increase attention and up the ante. He may resume his familiar way of brinkmanship and increase the sense of crisis via missile experiments, which we should be prepared for. We should not stay idle and naively trust Kim’s willingness for denuclearization.