North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un said on Wednesday that the inter-Korean communication lines will be restored in early October.
According to North Korea’s state-controlled Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), in his address at the second-day session of the Supreme People’s Assembly, Kim expressed a will to restore the communication lines to rehabilitate the inter-Korean relations and to settle a “lasting peace” on the Korean Peninsula. However, Kim warned that it is up to unidentified South Korean authorities as to whether the inter-Korean relationship will be restored or not.
“Now the inter-Korean relations are at the crossroads of serious choice of whether to remove the present frozen relations and take the road of reconciliation and cooperation or to keep suffering the pain of division in the vicious cycle of confrontation,” Kim said in a statement reported by KCNA. “South Korea should quickly get rid of the wild dream that it must contain the provocation of north Korea and of the serious consciousness of crisis and damage.”
Kim accused the South Korean authorities of worsening inter-Korean relations by ignoring and neglecting the causes of the tension between the two Koreas. He criticized “all sorts of military exercises and moves for arms buildup” conducted by South Korea as “undisguised under the pretext of ‘containing’ the DPRK.” (The DPRK is the official name of North Korea.)
While partially seeking a way to restore inter-Korean relations, Kim downplayed Washington’s efforts to renew dialogue with no preconditions as “no more than a show to cover up their hostile acts,” making clear that he would never accept the U.S. dialogue offer unless Washington makes concessions or removes “their hostile policy” against the North.
“As the past eight-month course after the appearance of the new US Administration clearly showed, there is no change in the US military threat to and hostile policy toward us at all, and instead, their expressions and methods get more cunning,” Kim said. He also said that the Biden administration’s approach is simply “a prolongation” of the hostile policy pursued by its predecessors, indicating that he has no interest in the Biden administration’s “calibrated and practical” approach.
In response to the U.S. efforts to renew dialogue with “no preconditions,” North Korea has consistently urged the U.S. to abandon its “hostile policy.” Kim once again made it clear that he would follow his so-called “force with force, and to good will with good will” principle in interactions with the United States.
Mason Richey, a professor of International and Area Studies at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, told The Diplomat that Kim’s willingness to restore the communication lines is a step toward seeking economic benefits from the South as a strategic move.
“I don’t think Kim is seeking dialogue and cooperation with the South for its own sake. If he wants those things, it’s in order to reap economic benefits from the South,” Richey said.
After Kim reaffirmed his stance that North Korea is unlikely to reengage in dialogue with Washington under the current circumstances, the U.S. State Department spokesman once again reiterated that “the U.S. harbors no hostile intent toward North Korea” in an email interview with Yonhap News Agency in Seoul on Wednesday.
China, the largest trading partner and only ally of North Korea, claimed that the U.S. needs to take different measures and actions, saying that Washington’s overtures seem ineffective in enticing the North back to the negotiating table and defusing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
“The U.S. should avoid repeating empty slogans, but rather show its sincerity by presenting an appealing plan,” Hua Chunying, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday. Hua also added that the relevant sides need to find “a feasible solution to address each other’s concerns in a balanced manner, in order to jointly advance the political settlement of the Peninsula issue.”
China hopes to make the 2022 Beijing Olympics the next 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, in terms of providing momentum to make progress on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. In this context, China has supported South Korea’s efforts to engage in inter-Korean dialogue to rebuild relations with North Korea.
“There could be a summit before Moon’s term [ends] if Kim thinks he can get desirable deliverables, notably economically, but I do not think he will not want to meet Moon for another photo-op summit,” Richey said.
Since the failed Hanoi Summit in 2019, North Korea has not responded to the U.S. and South Korea’s willingness to talk with no preconditions. Instead, Pyongyang has consistently demanded the U.S. and South Korea to abolish their “hostile policy,” which refers to the allies’ joint military exercises and the presence of U.S. troops in South Korea.
As diplomacy has stalled, South Koreans have started considering the redeployment of U.S. tactical nuclear weapons as a way to force the North to take irreversible steps toward denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. But there are no signs this is being seriously considered by either government.
Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute in South Korea, told The Diplomat that the redeployment of tactical nuclear weapons would not be an effective solution to bring the North back to the table.
“Kim Jong Un is already aware that the U.S. cannot attack North Korea with nuclear weapons as his country already possesses nuclear and long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles,” Cheong said.
Instead, Cheong emphasized that the United States should undertake close cooperation with China as North Korea has inseparable economic ties with its larger neighbor.
North Korea said on Wednesday that it had successfully tested a hypersonic missile. Seoul’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, however, said the North’s new hypersonic missile is in an early stage of development and believes it will take a considerable amount of time to actually deploy the missile in the field.
Meanwhile, after a successful test of underwater submarine-launched missiles, the South Korean Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday its plan to buy at least 1,000 drones as a part of efforts to strengthen its defense capability.
The United Nations Security Council is going to discuss North Korea’s latest missile launches and non-proliferation issues in a closed meeting on Thursday morning. The statement published after the meeting could affect not only the promised restoration of inter-Korean communication lines but also the entire inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korea dialogue process in the lead-up to the Beijing Winter Olympics.