A North Korean media reported, “The Korean Peninsula is standing at the important crossroads of continuing on a stable and peaceful state or returning to a volatile situation,” and urged the U.S. to “withdraw hostile policies” and South Korea to “break away from its dependence on foreign powers,” citing president of the North Korean Supreme People's Assembly Choe Ryong Hae’s speech at the conference of Non-Aligned Countries on Tuesday. The country is trying to escalate tensions until the end of this year, which was the deadline set by Pyongyang for the U.S.-North Korea talks.
Pyongyang has been using its once-powerful figures to add more pressure on Washington. North Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan released a statement on Thursday emphasizing the “friendly relationship between the leaders of North Korea and the U.S.,” followed by former Director of the United Front Department Kim Yong Chol’s statement threatening “the exchange of fires.” This time, however, it was North Korean No. 2 Choe Ryong Hae who made a threat that the situation can become easily volatile. It may be the reflection of Pyongyang’s anxiety over the little outcome as year-end review is coming closer, however, it seems that the country is creating a mood to transition to the “new path” that it has been mentioning for a while.
North Korea is likely to accumulate the reasons to justify provocations while raising the level of its threats. It may engage in certain actions while making threats with harsh language. It’s likely that the country will once again launch submarine-launched ballistic missiles or short- and mid-range missiles and restore nuclear test sites, which were the tactics it chose two years ago, rather than conducting nuclear tests or intercontinental ballistic missile launches, which Pyongyang made a promise to suspend. In addition, the inter-Korean relations, which have been utilized as leverage for the U.S.-North Korea relations, are being driven to the edge of a cliff.
Meanwhile, the South Korean government proposed on Monday working-level talks in a response to North Korea’s removal of tourism facilities in Kumgang Mountains. The Ministry of Unification said measures to bypass the U.N sanctions against North Korea with “creative solutions,” such as individual travels or visits by separated families, to resume tourism in Kumgang Mountains are under review. It’s unlikely that North Korea, which is focused on making increasingly more threats, will respond at all to such a proposal. Even so, it is highly likely that a one-sided negotiation will unfold. It is doubtful whether the South Korean government is coming up with any plans against potential crisis that may find itself on the Korean Peninsula in the near future, rather than simply appeasing Pyongyang.