“The situation on the Korean Peninsula is more dangerous than it has been at any time since early June 1950. That may sound overly dramatic, but we believe that, like his grandfather in 1950, Kim Jong Un has made a strategic decision to go to war,” asserted two well-known North Korea watchers earlier this month.
But Reuters reports that US and South Korean officials are downplaying the threat: “‘While we are not seeing indications of a direct military threat at this time, we continue to monitor for the risk of (North Korea) military action against (South Korea) and Japan,’ a U.S. official said.”
We agree that North Korea does not appear postured for a near-term attack, but the analysis from Robert Carlin and Siegfried Hecker (Hecker was once given access to the Pyongyang’s nuclear facilities at Yongbyon; see bios below) is well worth the read. There’s no doubt Kim Jong Un is making fundamental changes to North Korean doctrine, and perhaps strategy, especially toward South Korea.
The analysts attribute the change to a number of factors, including the failure of the Kim/Trump discussions several years ago and North Korea’s more recent cozying up with China and Russia, including increased military cooperation with the latter. “The North’s view that the global tides were running in its favor probably fed into decisions in Pyongyang about both the need and opportunity—and perhaps the timing—toward a military solution to the Korean question,” conclude the analysts.
- “Robert L. Carlin is a nonresident scholar at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey and a former chief of the Northeast Asia Division in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the US State Department, where he took part in US-North Korean negotiations.
Siegfried S. Hecker is a professor of practice at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, a professor of practice at Texas A&M University, and a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and professor emeritus of Stanford University.“