The war tensions over North Korea ebbed slightly Saturday, April 15, when the military parade in Pyongyang marking the 105th anniversary of its founding father Kim Il-sung passed without displaying the KN-08 and KN-11 intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the US. His grandson, Kim Jong-un watched the parade from a raised platform. So far, he has not given the threatened order for North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, although it may still be imminent.
The weapons carried by the giant trucks rumbling through central Pyongyang indicated that the North Korean missile program was primarily focused at the moment on developing solid fuel weapons, which can be launched without advance preparations or detection by spy satellites.
Also on show were four models of ICBM prototypes whose development is not yet complete. Of deep concern to South Korea and Japan were the ballistic missiles that can be launched from submarines and therefore directly threaten them.
In the unpredictable depths of decision-making by North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-un, it cannot be said for sure whether he was affected by the US Tomahawk strike against a Syrian air base on April 7, or America’s first use in combat of the GBU-43/B “mother of all bombs” against an ISIS cave stronghold in Afghanistan on Thursday, April 13. The former knocked out one-fifth of the Syrian air force, while the latter is now reported to have taken out 90 jihadists.
Was Kim deterred by the American buildup of warships and bombers within range of his country? Even if he was given pause, there is no doubt in Washington, Tokyo or Seoul that Kim Jong-un will not back off from his plan to build missiles capable of reaching the East Coast of the US or his nuclear program.
Expectation of an imminent underground nuclear test was set off by satellite photographs of advance preparations. But in the past, Pyongyang, aware of surveillance from space, has brought preparations to the final stage and held off tests for a more opportune moment.
For decades, the rulers of North Korea were allowed to get away with developing dangerous missile and nuclear programs. Sanctions never worked, neither were they brought round to talks by money and food aid that kept their regime in power, which Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton attempted to make its rulers amenable to diplomacy.
Since sanctions, aid and diplomacy never worked, the only option left to the United States and President Donald Trump appears to be the military one, which is tantamount to the US, South Korea and Japan going to war on North Korea. America is the only one of the three allies capable of waging a conflict on this scale.
Chinese and Japanese experts on North Korea fear that the American actions in Syria and Afghanistan had the wrong affect on Kim Jong-un: instead of deterring him, they convinced him to accelerate the development of long-range ICBMs as a second strike option if he comes under US attack.
The foreign ministers of two of his concerned neighbors, Russia and China were on the phone to each other Friday to try and defuse the tension. Was their leaders’ influence brought to bear on Pyongyang for delaying the nuclear test? Their lines were also buzzing to Washington. Kim Jong-un is no doubt patting himself on the back for his success in unnerving the leaders of the three world powers and making them come to his door.