A missile as a bargaining chip

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A missile as a bargaining chip

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un upped the nuclear saber-rattling at the start of the new year. In a 30-minute speech, he lauded his country for having risen as a “nuclear power state of the East” last year.

“We should resolutely smash the enemies’ reckless aggression and war provocations,” he said, while threatening to continue with the reinforcement of self-defense capabilities and pre-emptive strike capacity backed by nuclear arms.

Unlike last year, Kim did not hide plans for nuclear provocation in this year’s address. In last year’s speech, he pledged to be more proactive in improving inter-Korean relations. Less than a week later, Pyongyang carried out its fourth nuclear test.

This year, Kim announced that the country was in the “final stage” of launching an intercontinental ballistic missile. His misled confidence is expected to lead to high-stakes military provocation.

His words in this year’s address were more violent than ever. By warning of a long-range missile launch, he was obviously provoking the United States. Pyongyang might be hoping to use its intercontinental ballistic missile threat as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Washington for arms reduction. But the incoming administration of Donald J. Trump is highly unlikely to be engaging. Kim should seriously reconsider and restrain himself before inviting catastrophe.

Kim entirely misread the South Korean sentiment behind the rallies against President Park Geun-hye. Kim claimed the protests were resentment against “inhumane and pro-American policies” and a result of conflict among the same people. He encouraged South Koreans to go ahead with their protests.

Kim’s violent rhetoric must not be taken lightly. The government and military must prepare for all options against North Korea in its latest threats of nuclear and military provocation without closing the door for dialogue.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 2, Page 34
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