A military parade neverthelessNorth Korea held a massive military parade to mark the 70th year of the founding of its armed forces on Feb. 8 this year — the eve of the opening of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. With the event, the Kim Jong-un regime threw cold water on our government’s expectation for a peaceful Olympics. North Korea showed off most of its missiles, including the most advanced Hwasong 15 ICBM, this time. In a speech before the parade, however, Kim did not mention nuclear armaments.
The North kept its military parade intentionally low-profile, apparently so as not to cause unnecessary noise while North Korea has already gotten a non-military spotlight from the international community through its presence in Pyeongchang. It had been training over 13,000 troops and 200 military vehicles at an airport outside Pyongyang. Seoul and Washington advised Pyongyang to call off the military parade. “While we would prefer that this parade not occur on Feb. 8, it is our hope, and I know the hope of South Korea, that the North Koreans will join all the nations of the world in celebrating the athletes,” U.S. Under Secretary of State Steve Goldstein said a briefing on Jan. 31.
Pyongyang’s display of its latest ICBMs and nuclear warheads raised concern as it could be regarded as serious saber-rattling at a time when Washington is studying the option of a “bloody-nose” military strike. At the same time, Kim Jong-un’s decision to keep the parade relatively low-key and instead strengthen the profile of its delegation to the PyeongChang Games by including his younger sister, Kim Yo-jong, suggests that Kim may be serious about veering in a conciliatory direction.
Government intelligence experts believe that multiple layers of international sanctions have starting taking a toll on North Korea. They think the regime could shake under one or two more years of heightened sanctions. Washington maintains s hard-line stance. Stopping at the U.S. air base of Yokota in Japan on his way to Seoul, Vice President Mike Pence said the United States was “ready for any eventuality” with North Korea and that “all options are on the table.”
Our government must deal with the situation very carefully if it does not want to be exploited by North Korea. The government must use the Olympics to find solutions to the North Korean nuclear problem. But also, Kim Yo-jong must tell her brother how serious the international community is about denuclearization when she returns home.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 9, Page 34