Commentary: North Korean missiles tests – Kim Jong Un won’t stop and options are shrinking

That is unlikely. North Korea is surrounded by states at best ambivalent about it – Russia, China – and at worst, openly hostile – South Korea, Japan and the US.Its economy is small, so its ability to sustain a conventional arms race is highly constrained. In such a punishing strategic environment, nukes are very valuable. They keep North Korea’s many adversaries and neighbours – including Beijing – at bay. BIGGEST HURDLES TO NEGOTIATED DEAL And so the most predictable dynamic will soon unfold: If asked to negotiate, North Korea will demand enormous concessions for even the smallest denuclearisation steps. Nukes are so valuable to Pyongyang, they will not give them up simply for sanctions relief. Bear in mind that Trump had offered this very carrot at the Hanoi summit in 2019, and Pyongyang rejected it right away. Kim wants a lot more, likely some mix of the following: A huge cash pay-off, diplomatic recognition by the US, the withdrawal of US forces from South Korea, the formal end of the legally unresolved Korean War, the end of the South Korean-US alliance – and with sanctions relief thrown in. These are large concessions the US is nowhere near to accepting politically. There is little debate in the US foreign policy community on such options and even a lesser realisation of just how much the North Koreans will demand to give up any of their warheads or missiles. So the stalemate rolls on, and tests like this week’s will recur. Robert Kelly is Professor at the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy at Pusan National University.

Commentary: North Korean missiles tests – Kim Jong Un won’t stop and options are shrinking

That is unlikely. North Korea is surrounded by states at best ambivalent about it – Russia, China – and at worst, openly hostile – South Korea, Japan and the US.

Its economy is small, so its ability to sustain a conventional arms race is highly constrained. In such a punishing strategic environment, nukes are very valuable. They keep North Korea’s many adversaries and neighbours – including Beijing – at bay.

BIGGEST HURDLES TO NEGOTIATED DEAL

And so the most predictable dynamic will soon unfold: If asked to negotiate, North Korea will demand enormous concessions for even the smallest denuclearisation steps.

Nukes are so valuable to Pyongyang, they will not give them up simply for sanctions relief. Bear in mind that Trump had offered this very carrot at the Hanoi summit in 2019, and Pyongyang rejected it right away.

Kim wants a lot more, likely some mix of the following: A huge cash pay-off, diplomatic recognition by the US, the withdrawal of US forces from South Korea, the formal end of the legally unresolved Korean War, the end of the South Korean-US alliance – and with sanctions relief thrown in.

These are large concessions the US is nowhere near to accepting politically.

There is little debate in the US foreign policy community on such options and even a lesser realisation of just how much the North Koreans will demand to give up any of their warheads or missiles.

So the stalemate rolls on, and tests like this week’s will recur.

Robert Kelly is Professor at the Department of Political Science and Diplomacy at Pusan National University.