With denuclearisation talks
From new reports of missile testing-related tremors registered in North Korea this week, to former US president Jimmy Carter’s willingness to pick the reins of further talks with its iron-fisted dictator Kim Jong-Un, the rapid and alarming developments stemming from the hermit nation not only underscore the failure of the Hanoi summit, but also upends decades of American policymaking.
The Washington Post notes that the sudden collapse of the summit without an agreement has quickly brought new concerns and a shift in tone from North Korea. Here, we list the key developments and probe deeper into what lies ahead in such uncertain times.
- In an earlier report on the Hanoi summit, Qrius makes a compelling argument why the Trump-Kim talks were a ruse to push North Korean nuclear activity underground, so as to extract relaxation of sanctions from the US without offering concrete proof of denuclearisation in return. Since the failed summit, however, the country’s nuclear programme is being developed more openly, abrasively, and in blatant violation of agreements so far.
- An artificial earthquake was recorded on Thursday afternoon from the southern mining town of Pyongyang, prompting fresh nuclear missile fears and speculation on social media abut renewed nuclear activity. Although the official version states that it stemmed from mining activity, the earthquake comes just days after analysts said North Korea was “pursuing the rapid rebuilding” of a missile site it promised to dismantle.
South Korea’s intelligence agency has also reportedly been briefed on renewed activity at the Sohae long-range missile launch
centrein Tongchang- ri, in North Korea’s northeastern region.
- CNN reported Friday that South Korea’s National Intelligence Service is tracking an increased movement of transport vehicles around a space facility in Sohae, previously used to test long-range missile engines. Satellite images made public on Thursday suggest that rebuilding is underway, raising questions about the future of US-North Korea negotiations.
- The US has reportedly decided to seek access to inspect the facility but the Trump administration has not yet concluded whether the facility is currently operational, a senior State Department official said. Trump is reportedly a “little disappointed” by the new evidence but insists that his relationship with Kim remains good.
- Shortly after this, North Korean media acknowledged for the first time that the Hanoi summit ended “unexpectedly without an agreement.” Despite previously painting it in a positive light, state news agency KCNA said on Friday that the meeting hadn’t gone as well as expected. Sources also say that what may have derailed talks in Hanoi was a secret uranium enrichment plant outside Pyongyang.
- A paper published by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) after a year of debate and expert analysis warns against starving Kim into submission with sanctions. It will only make him more hostile and unpredictable as North Korea is not about to surrender its nuclear weapons, because the regime considers them essential to its survival—a view also held by Daniel Coats, the director of national intelligence, in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The FAS report comes at a time when the White House is trying to regroup and revamp its strategy to contain, engage and transform, rather than aim for one-step denuclearisation.
- Speaking of new strategies, the US seems open to resuming talks despite the latest reports about suspicious tremors. Leading that charge is former president Jimmy Carter, who offered to travel to North Korea to broker “a joint framework to help resolve the crisis in North Korea and achieve peace.” “Our plan will be inspired by the agreement on principles he reached with Kim Il-sung in 1994,” Democrat Ro Khanna tweeted, speaking of the agreement reached between Carter and Kim’s father back in the day.
What does the future of diplomacy look like?
Analysts believe that restoring the Sohae site is one of several steps Kim expects to gain leverage. It is also a sign of displeasure at Trump’s refusal to lift sanctions without complete denuclearisation. The next year will give spectators ample time to see this play out in one of two ways.
Either, this will mark a return to an era of threats and counter-threats, with a strong possibility of a nuclear showdown depending on the temperance shown by both leaders.
Or, the US under Trump’s presidency, will display rare patience letting North Korea continue building its “space mission” (often used as a cover for missile launch programme) at Sohae.
According to the New York Times, the US had issued far more specific warnings when Iran was preparing to launch a similar space mission.
Crypto funds nukes?
A UN report by a panel of experts, tabled before the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions committee this week made another shocking revelation.
The sanctions have apparently made it difficult for the state to raise funds, legally, for its state-of-the-art nuclear tech. But the Asian nation has reportedly managed to amass $670 million in fiat and cryptocurrencies by hacking into overseas financial institutions between 2015 and 2018, purportedly using blockchain “to cover their tracks.”
The cyber attacks are believed to have been carried out by a special task force within the North Korean military. Most of their targets have been Asian, including South Korean, e-commerce sites or cryptocurrency exchanges.
Why it matters
Both are scenarios which don’t bode well for the rest of the world.
India, for one, has been building its own impressive nuclear arsenal and edged very close to a similar showdown last month, with
With the evolution of the nature of modern warfare, tensions created by cyber attacks and prospective nuclear exchange is something world leaders, democratic institutions and peace-keeping
The Reserve Bank of India, for example, does not
Prarthana Mitra is a Staff Writer at Qrius
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