After Baghdad

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After Baghdad

Seoul believes Pyongyang will become more obsessed with nuclear weapons after the U.S. killing of a top Iranian commander in Baghdad. According to a report to the National Assembly intelligence committee, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) has concluded that the international community doubts North Korea will ever give up nuclear weapons, even if sanctions are lifted. Following its study of the latest Workers’ Party convention resolution, the NIS believes North Korea is reinforcing its defenses and wants to be an “unbeatable” military power. Rep. Kim Min-ki of the Democratic Party said the NIS reported that North Korea was demanding not just removal of sanctions, but also a declaration of the end of the Korean War and establishment of a peace regime for progress in denuclearization negotiations.

That suggest that Pyongyang wants removal of sanctions and a structural replacement of the cease-fire with a lasting peace regime as well as dismantlement of the South Korea-U.S. joint forces. When he met U.S. President Donald Trump for the first time in Singapore 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un promised to go entirely nuclear-free. Still he went on to develop intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles and fired off short-range projectiles multiple times. North Korea is believed to have numerous nuclear weapons it can mount on missiles. Such technological progress has given Kim the confidence to declare a “frontal breakthrough.” Tensions have returned to the Korean Peninsula.

The United States, however, is more preoccupied with Iran. Trump has warned he has identified 52 Iranian sites (in retaliation for 52 American hostages taken by Iran in the 1970s) as attack targets and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani threatened to take revenge for 290 people who died in the downing of an Iranian passenger jet in 1988. Given the escalating conflict with Iran, Washington would hardly have the patience to mind Pyongyang. In the meantime, North Korea will be free to pursue its provocations. Experts predict it will resume testing of long-range missiles or nuclear devices in February or March.

North Korea will have crossed the point of no return if it presses ahead with provocations. It, too, can be the target of U.S. “decapitation” operations. North Korea must stay on the path of dialogue. Our government must raise its vigilance for any possible North Korean moves.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 8, Page 30
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