How to read N.Korea’s sig­nals in pa­rade

Global Times - - Front Page - By Zhao Lixin

North Korea marked the 70th found­ing an­niver­sary on Septem­ber 9 with a mil­i­tary pa­rade in Kim Il-sung Square, the sixth pa­rade since North Korean leader Kim Jong-un took of­fice. It is widely be­lieved that at such a del­i­cate mo­ment when North Korea’s relations with the US and the process of de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the Korean Penin­sula are stuck in a log­jam, Py­ongyang has de­lib­er­ately tried to keep a low pro­file in the show of mil­i­tary might , sug­gest­ing a dé­tente with the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.

North Korea’s in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles, Hwa­song-14 and Hwa­song-15, which are con­sid­ered a threat to the US, were not dis­played in the pa­rade, and the show of con­ven­tional weapons was not as grand as ex­pected.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump tweeted that it was “a big and very pos­i­tive state­ment” from Kim to demon­strate his com­mit­ment to de­nu­cle­arize the Korean Penin­sula.

It was also un­usual that Kim did not give a speech at the pa­rade. Be­fore the an­nual show of mil­i­tary might be­gan, Kim Yong-nam, pres­i­dent of the Pre­sid­ium of the Supreme Peo­ple’s As­sem­bly of North Korea, de­liv­ered a speech, look­ing back at the progress the coun­try has made in pol­i­tics, econ­omy, cul­ture and de­fense over the last 70 years. Yet it is no­table that he did not men­tion the na­tion’s nu­clear prow­ess, but em­pha­sized the sig­nif­i­cance of con­cen­trat­ing ev­ery effort on pro­mot­ing eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

At the event, Kim waved at the crowd with Li Zhan­shu, a mem­ber of the Stand­ing Com­mit­tee of the Po­lit­i­cal Bu­reau of the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China, from a bal­cony of the Grand Peo­ple’s House on Kim Il-sung Square, which combined with the three meet­ings be­tween Kim and Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping in the first half of 2018, is con­sid­ered a new im­pe­tus by the Peo­ple’s Daily to boost Chi­naNorth Korea friendly relations.

Re­duced ten­sions since the Pyeongchang Win­ter Olympics are pre­cious for North Korea. With the thaw in relations with China and South Korea, North Korea has found a way out of the predica­ment.

Then, Py­ongyang fur­ther demon­strated its com­mit­ment to de­nu­cle­ariza­tion by halt­ing its in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile tests, blow­ing up the Pung­gye-ri nu­clear test site on May 24 and dis­man­tling the Tongchang-ri mis­sile launch site.

How­ever, the Trump-Kim sum­mit on June 12 failed to achieve any sub­stan­tial break­through, and the war-end­ing dec­la­ra­tion be­tween North Korea, South Korea and the US, which South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in had made ef­forts to push, did not ma­te­ri­al­ize. Trump in­sists on com­pre­hen­sive, ver­i­fi­able and ir­re­versible de­nu­cle­ariza­tion (CVID), while North Korea in­tends to de­nu­cle­arize the Penin­sula in stages. Due to the di­vi­sions be­tween Py­ongyang and Wash­ing­ton over the de­nu­cle­ariza­tion process, US sanc­tions have yet to be lifted.

With chang­ing in­ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­ment and shift­ing do­mes­tic fo­cus in North Korea, it is un­likely that Py­ongyang will con­tinue to take a hard line and the in­ter­na­tional so­ci­ety has in­creas­ing ex­pec­ta­tions of a peace­ful so­lu­tion to the nu­clear is­sue. How­ever, the US has still threat­ened to in­crease sanc­tions on North Korea un­less a de­nu­cle­ariza­tion plan that sat­is­fies Wash­ing­ton is im­ple­mented.

Py­ongyang seems to have rec­og­nized that nu­clear weapons are be­com­ing a bur­den for the na­tion. De­vel­op­ments have shown that the coun­try is sin­cere in its com­mit­ment to de­nu­cle­ariza­tion. Kim has al­ways been ex­pect­ing a so­lu­tion to se­cu­rity con­cerns through ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The South Korean gov­ern­ment will con­tinue to serve as a me­di­a­tor be­tween the US and North Korea. Moon Jae-in is sched­uled to visit Py­ongyang on Septem­ber 18. The UN Gen­eral As­sem­bly will con­vene at the end of Septem­ber, dur­ing which the US and South Korea will hold “in-depth con­sul­ta­tions” on the nu­clear is­sue.

A de­tailed roadmap is needed to fully ad­dress the nu­clear is­sue, yet it is not enough to only push North Korea to present a nu­clear dis­ar­ma­ment time­line.

There is no doubt that Py­ongyang is con­tin­u­ously send­ing sig­nals of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, while the US pol­icy to­ward North Korea re­mains stub­born and tough. To put it plainly, lack of mu­tual trust is only a lame ex­cuse for ten­sions be­tween the US and North Korea. Some in the US fun­da­men­tally be­lieve that North Korea is not a “nor­mal coun­try” qual­i­fied to ne­go­ti­ate with the US – that is the crux of strained bi­lat­eral relations.

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