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Tsutomu Nishioka

【#465(Special)】N. Korean Nuclear Crisis Reaching Crucial Stage

Tsutomu Nishioka / 2017.09.07 (Thu)

September 4, 2017

     On September 3, North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear explosion test. On the previous day, I met with an informant with connections to the inside of North Korea in Seoul who said to me as follows:
     “Kim Jong Un instructed the Korean People’s Army in July or August to exert maximum pressure on the United States, conduct nuclear tests, launch more missiles, fire submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) and build large submarines (non-nuclear due to lack of nuclear-powered submarine technology) that can be armed with SLBMs. ‘If 100 missiles are fired simultaneously, even the United State cannot intercept all. Exert thorough military pressure on the United States and lead it to sit on the negotiating table,’ Kim said. North Korea can no longer catch up with South Korea in terms of economic power. It cannot catch up with even Vietnam, a fellow Asian communist country. Kim has no choice but to have talks with the United States. He wants to lead the United States to recognize North Korea as a nuclear power, conclude a peace treaty with North Korea and withdraw forces from South Korea.”

Kim bets on having talks with Trump
     The same informant said in May: “North Korea had prepared for a nuclear test to be conducted in late April. It was to test a miniaturized nuclear warhead with an unprecedented yield of about 100 kilotons. If the test were successful, the miniaturization of nuclear warheads would have been completed. When North Korea notified China of the plan several days before the test, China threatened to close the border with North Korea. Kim postponed the test as his sister Kim Yeo Jong warned him that China intended to topple his regime.”
     The yield of the latest nuclear test was tentatively estimated by the Japanese Ministry of Defense at 70 kilotons, indicating that the May information is highly credible. This means that Kim Jong Un forced the test successfully despite the Chinese threat to close the bilateral border. The United Nations Security Council may adopt a resolution for an oil embargo on North Korea and a substantial cut in employment of North Korean migrant workers. At the risk of such possibility, Kim has bet on ultimate negotiations with U.S. President Donald Trump.

No concession on rescuing abductees
     Kim’s political base is also unstable. According to South Korean intelligence sources, high-ranking officials of the Korean Workers’ Party and the State Security Department representing secret police have frequently contacted the South Korean authorities, asking questions about their treatments after their possible defection to the South. North Korea is expected to see fairly bad rice and corn harvests due to summer water shortages this year, indicating a starvation crisis next spring, according to sources inside North Korea.
     President Trump may be unwilling to go down in history as the U.S. president who leads North Korea to possess nuclear missiles reaching the U.S. mainland. He will impose a thorough economic embargo on North Korea and exert secondary sanctions on companies of China and Russia refusing to accept such embargo in a bid to expel these companies from the international financial system. Nevertheless, Kim will refuse to give up on nuclear missile development, prompting President Trump to prepare for military actions to remove Kim in a so-called “beheading” operation.
     At this stage, Kim will accept substantial negotiations to save his own life. The game will then reach a critical stage. Japan should then be steadfast to its demand for the return of all Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea while exerting maximum pressure on the North in lockstep with the United States. The crucial stage is coming.

Tsutomu Nishioka is a member of the Planning Committee at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and Visiting Professor at Reitaku University.