Tensions between the U.S. and North Korea are being reignited after a period of calm as U.S. national security advisor Robert O'Brien repeatedly said the U.S. is keeping an eye on the North right after North Korea’s comment about strengthening nuclear war deterrence power.
O'Brien mentioned three times that North Korea should give up its nuclear program and that the U.S. is keeping an eye on the country during an interview with CBS on Sunday. He also emphasized that not only public information but also developments in North Korea from intelligence agencies are all being monitored. It is rather sharper than his previous stance of insisting on principles for sustained discussions between the U.S. and North Korea.
Some are saying that the U.S. may even consider armed responses in the worst-case scenario based on O'Brien’s comment, “We’re keeping an eye on it and we’ll calibrate our response accordingly.” It is in line with Strategic Command Charles Richard’s two comments about taking decisive actions in the case of strategic deterrence failures during a briefing on his plans and goals for 2020.
However, experts also point out that there is no need for an exaggerated interpretation. “As North Korea began to use terms, such as the replenishment of strategic weapon capacity and the strengthening of nuclear war deterrence power, the U.S. had to react,” said Choi Kang, the vice-chairman of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. “However, it doesn’t seem to indicate that the U.S. has specific to-do plans or is willing to take extreme options.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. has kept the door to conversations with the North open. “We've managed to avoid conflict with North Korea over the last three and a half years,” said the national security advisor, mentioning the “excellent personal diplomacy” of U.S. President Donald Trump toward North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He also listed benefits that will become available to North Korea once the country gives up its nuclear program regarding North Korea’s re-entry into the global community and building a great economy. These are the benefits offered to the North when the country is expected to experience economic challenges as trade between China and North Korea dwindle due to COVID-19.
It is expected that North Korea will take some provocative measures to derive concessions from the Trump administration before the U.S. presidential election.
“North Korea will engage in activities that are intentionally noticeable by its enemies and cause analysis to successfully carry out its plan to strengthen nuclear war deterrence power,” Olli Heinonen, the former Deputy Director-General for Safeguards, said at the International Atomic Energy Agency, during an interview with Voice of America on Sunday.
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