Kim Jong Un kept up a rapid operational tempo of missile launches and nuclear weapons tests from January through September 2017. Suddenly he has gone quiet.
Over two months have passed since he launched a missile or detonated a nuclear bomb. It would be nice to think that he “got the message” from Washington and has decided to scale back his nuclear and ICBM ambitions. Maybe pressure from China and elsewhere in the form of economic sanctions is starting to work. Perhaps Kim is looking for a diplomatic way out of the escalatory dynamic he created.
We can be hopeful about that since any of those developments might avoid a war. But this article suggests that Kim’s pause is tactical rather than a strategic about-face.
No one knows exactly what Kim is up to. He may have wanted to pause his tests during the Chinese Communist Party Congress in late October and Trump’s visit to Beijing in early November in order not to be overly provocative. Some analysts suggest Kim is turning his attention to internal matters and shoring up popular support before entering the final phase of his nuclear showdown with the United States.
The best posture is to follow the classic advice of, “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” Now that the Chinese Party Congress and Trump’s Asia visit are over, it may soon be back to business as usual for the North Korean dictator.