More fire and fury?North Korea may want to turn the clock back to 2017. Following launches of hypersonic missiles earlier this month, it has hinted at the possibility of resuming nuclear tests and tests of ICBMs. After four launches of short-range missiles this year, the recalcitrant state is poised to provoke the United States again. The developments remind us of the lead-up to the “fire and fury” comments of U.S. President Donald Trump five years ago. His rage was triggered by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s provocations.
The Rodong Sinmun, the official mouthpiece of North Korea, relayed the Politburo’s order to completely review “trust-building measures we actively took” and consider a restart of “all activities we suspended for a while.” Its statement translates into a threat to end the self-imposed moratorium on nuclear tests and ICBM launches the North Korean leader has held to since 2017.
North Korea made the threat shortly before U.S. President Joe Biden’s press conference on Thursday marking his first year in office and a day before the United Nations Security Council discusses the North’s recent missile launches. The brinkmanship is obviously aimed at the Biden administration, which is engrossed with issues related to China and Ukraine. North Korea could make ratcheted-up provocations — including a test-firing of another hypersonic missile that can reach Guam or Alaska or a solid fuel-based ICBM or launching a military satellite — on Kim Jong-il’s birthday (Feb. 16) or Kim Il Sung’s birthday (Apr. 15) or around the time of Korea-U.S. joint military drills in March or April.
Such signs provoke a disturbing sense of déjà vu. North Korea fired an ICBM in 2017 — and in 2012, two weeks before the presidential election and three days before the inauguration of a conservative president in South Korea. Through similar actions, the North wants to proclaim that it is a nuclear power.
At the eight Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) in January 2021, Kim Jong-un gave five primary missions to his subordinates, including the development of smaller and lighter tactical nuclear weapons, production of supersized warheads, securing of 15,000-kilometer (9,321-miles) shooting range, as well as solid fuel-propelled ICBMs which can be fired from underwater and on the ground. The North’s level of missile advancement shows it has nearly reached its goals. But there is no country in the world that could advance to a big power after impoverishing its own people to develop nukes. If North Korea persists with the path, it will face a catastrophe.
A bigger problem is the South Korean government. Regardless of the North’s endless provocations, the Moon Jae-in administration only repeats its mantra of arranging an end-of-war declaration for the Korean Peninsula. The government must wake up. Instead of asking the people if they really want a war with North Korea, the government must recover trust from the public and the international community. Nevertheless, a deputy foreign minister appeared on a radio program Thursday and bragged about the “accomplishments of President Moon Jae-in through his trip to three Middle East countries” without mentioning any threats from North Korea. We are dumbfounded.