North Korea threat: After Kim’s missile parade, US must monitor ‘evolving nuclear threat’

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And Jenny Town, deputy director of the 38 North website, which monitors the Hermit State, has said the US will need to adopt a new strategy to contain the secretive nation and frustrate it in its quest to develop increasingly sophisticated weapons systems. The spectacular parade on October 10, attended by Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, saw the country showcase a wide range of weaponry.

In an article published on the website of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Ms Town wrote: “The stars of the parade were a new larger intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and a new submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM).”

However, she added: “The fixation on the two new ballistic missiles has obscured a far more important story about North Korea’s overall military modernisation.

“While the new ballistic missiles themselves may ultimately bring little in the way of strategic benefits, the level and pace of North Korea’s broader military modernisation should compel US policymakers to rethink the current approach to denuclearisation.”

Other kit had also been unveiled during the parade, Ms Town said, including new uniforms and accessories, small arms and artillery systems, battle tanks, short-range air defence systems.

Crucially transporter-erector-launchers (TELs) for missiles were also included, “suggesting that North Korea has overcome earlier shortages and has found a way to make its mobile missile force more robust”.

Ms Town added: “The external message was clear: North Korea is not waiting to see if its relations with the United States will improve, but will continue to advance its military development until it does, regardless of how difficult that may be.

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Jenny Town

“After the dust settles following the US presidential election and a winner is announced, the issue of North Korea’s evolving nuclear threat will remain.

“A second Trump administration or a new Biden administration will be dealing with a North Korea that has expressed a waning belief that the bilateral relationship will actually change, making the return to negotiations a hard sell.

“While both the Trump and Biden camps have expressed a desire to get back to ‘serious’ diplomacy, Saturday’s military parade was a vivid depiction of how the whole US approach – whether summit-driven or working-level talks – is outdated.

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“Long, difficult negotiations for a grand, comprehensive deal may have been the right approach when dealing with a country with a burgeoning nuclear capability.

“But the level and pace of North Korea’s conventional and strategic weapons development and the deep mistrust on both sides calls for a more agile and incremental approach to curb development now, while still working toward more ambitious long-term goals.”

She explained: “This does not mean ‘giving up’ on denuclearisation.

“It means differentiating a denuclearisation process from what the United States has done in the past to try to prevent countries from going down the nuclear path in the first place.

“The tools and steps needed to slow or stop a moving train are not the same as those needed to keep the train parked at the station.”

As such, the United States needed a new approach which works to slow North Korea’s nuclear advancement in the short term, while working towards the kind of relationship required to persuade Pyongyang to “the end of the nuclear disarmament road”.

Ms Town added: “The rate of change North Korea has demonstrated in its military modernisation and strategic weapons development over the past five years is telling.

“Despite biting sanctions, Pyongyang has consistently shown a superior ability to adapt to the times and find ways to meet its strategic goals.

“The question is whether US policymakers can be equally as adept at adjusting their approach to one that will bring about incremental results to prevent a repeat modernisation story five years from now.”

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