By Du Chaoping
As the year-end deadline set by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is approaching, the country is getting increasingly tough in its stance on denuclearization negotiation with the US. The Korean Central News Agency reported that on last Saturday afternoon the DPRK’s Academy of National Defense Science successfully carried out a “magnificent” test at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in North Pyongan Province.
The negotiation is making no progress now. Previously, the DPRK had test-launched “super large rocket artillery launcher” on Thanksgiving to remind Washington to change its hostile policy against Pyongyang, but to no avail, and Trump recently mentioned again the possibility of armed conflicts. In response, Pyongyang warned that it would give Washington a “Christmas gift” if it doesn’t make any substantial changes. The Korean peninsula is hung on the line.
Earlier on the DPRK set the end of December as the deadline for the US to change its hostile DPRK policy and come up with a new plan to advance the negotiation. Ri Thae-song, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK in charge of the US Affairs, reaffirmed on December 3rd that as the deadline is approaching, instead of taking concrete steps to respond to Pyongyang’s request, the US is stalling by singing the old tune of “sustained and substantial dialogue”. That was just a small trick of the US to lure the DPRK back to the negotiating table in order to help its own domestic political situation and re-election.
Ri Thae-song warned of sending “a Christmas gift” if no concrete step was taken by the US to promote their dialogue, and what the gift will be totally depends on what steps the US will take.
What exactly is this “Christmas gift”? Media in the US, ROK and Japan all guessed it to be a test firing of long-range missile or even resuming nuclear weapons building.
Ri Thae-song was implying that the DPRK will test-launch a long-range missile on Christmas, reported Washington Post, while the Yonhap News Agency believed the warning implies the possibility of the DPRK’s re-initiating nuclear weapons or intercontinental ballistic missile test unless Washington offers a new negotiation plan acceptable to Pyongyang.
The DPRK has built at tens of locations concrete launching pads big enough to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to the Asahi Shimbun. Satellite images from Planet Lab, an American satellite imaging startup, released on December 5th, showed new activities at the Sohae Satellite Launching Station in Tongchang-ri, and the large shipping container at the engine test board was conjectured for engine test. Pyongyang agreed to dismantle the Sohae Satellite Launching Station after the Singapore Summit in 2018, so resuming the engine test there is of strong symbolic meaning, and the timing also sends a definite message to the US side.
But that’s all just conjecture. Analysts said the Korean peninsula situation is on the verge of a new round of escalation. Both the DPRK and US should exercise self-restraint and take effective measures to maintain the current situation and create a favorable environment for next round of negotiations.