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How the world should deal with North Korea’s ‘new normal’

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North Korea recently tested a “new tactical guided weapon” and criticized U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, signaling impatience with America’s refusal to lift sanctions.

Pyongyang’s freeze on nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches is still intact, although the most dangerous parts of these weapons programs — production and research and development — continue.

Given that the North’s intercontinental ballistic missiles have advanced to a menacing threshold, Kim chose instead to test a conventional battlefield weapon rather than tempt fate and risk a “bloody nose” attack from the United States.

After decades of broken promises and failed diplomatic efforts, North Korea has acquired an arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles that will not be going away anytime soon: Its leader, Kim Jong Un, has vowed his “nuclear sword” will never be relinquished.

Following a surge in provocative nuclear and missile tests, in 2018 Kim launched a diplomatic charm offensive, netting two summits with President Donald Trump and sparking optimism that the status quo on the Korean Peninsula was poised to change.

What explains his abrupt shift from provocation to restraint? Although in late 2017 North Korea boasted it had attained its nuclear deterrent and demonstrated an ICBM capability, its strategic program continued. So it seems clear Kim’s course correction was a response to unprecedented Chinese enforcement of sanctions in late 2017, not a single successful ICBM test.

Rather than a paradigm shift, Kim’s diplomacy has instead........

© The Japan Times