Sputnik’s English-language website recently posted a series of articles purporting to provide an “explanation” of why demonstrating enhanced nuclear capabilities is the “only choice” left for North Korea in the face of pressure from the Western nations, especially the United States. One of them, published on May 16 and headlined “This is Why North Korea Demonstrates its Military Capability to the World,” quoted Alexander Vorontsov, head of the Department of Korea and Mongolia at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies.
“North Korea cannot make concessions on this issue because their opponents will interpret them as a manifestation of weakness and further result in increased pressure on the country,” Vorontsov was quoted as saying.
“He [Kim Jong-un] has no other choice, he still hopes that sooner or later there will be some conditions for normal negotiations, [where Pyongyang will be able to speak] not from a weak position, but as an equal participant. For this reason it demonstrates its military capabilities,” Vorontsov said.
On April 5, a day after North Korea test-fired a medium-range ballistic missile that reached the Sea of Japan, Russia’s RIA Novosti state news agency published an article in which Vorontsov was quoted repeating the line Pyongyang uses to justify nuclear missile tests.
Noting that U.S. and South Korean forces were conducting annual joint military exercises in South Korea, Vorontsov told RIA Novosti “there are thousands and thousands of soldiers who in the course of those exercises every day are firing different weapons, launching various types of missiles. The Northerners perceive that as a threat … and demonstrate that they are ready to uncompromisingly defend themselves against any aggression, and that they have something to protect themselves with.”
The claim that North Korea has not been given the opportunity for “normal negotiations” is false, experts told Polygraph.info.
“The blame for failure to negotiate an agreement to reassure North Korea and achieve a nuclear free Korean peninsula is almost entirely the DPRK’s fault,” said Gary Samore, executive director for research of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Vorontsov’s view, that “Pyongyang believes it must have nuclear weapons and missiles to defend itself from external threats, including the United States,” might be correct, Samore said.
“However, I also think that previous efforts by presidents Clinton, Bush and Obama to negotiate agreements with Pyongyang all failed because North Korea cheated or reneged on the agreements,” he added.
“U.S. diplomats and envoys have repeatedly attempted to engage with North Korean counterparts but all attempts were rejected by the regime,” Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, told Polygraph.info. “Pyongyang closed the ‘New York Channel’ – the last official government-to-government link between the U.S. and North Korea – last July, and previously severed the means for inter-Korean dialogue.”
The Trump administration has made stopping the development of a North Korean ICBM a top priority, and stressed the U.S. would consider military action to take out launching sites and nuclear facilities, if needed.
Klingner noted that North Korea has not upheld its promise not to pursue nuclear weapons.
“In four international agreements, North Korea promised to never pursue nuclear weapons,” he said. “Pyongyang subsequently agreed in four additional agreements to abandon the nuclear weapons they promised to never build in the first place. All of those attempts at negotiations failed, as did U.S. and other nations’ attempts at two-party, three-party, four-party, and six-party negotiations.”
South Korea has 240 inter-Korean agreements with Pyongyang, and has provided large-scale economic aid to North Korea and promised far more, Klingner noted. “All of those efforts failed to induce political and economic reform in North Korea or to moderate the regime’s belligerent foreign policy,” he said.
The UN Security Council has adopted several resolutions stating that North Korea must abandon its nuclear and missile programs in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner.
“Pyongyang is in defiance of all of those resolutions, as well as transgressions against U.S. and international law through its various illicit activities,” Klingner said.