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North Korea Seeks More Concession Options Through Missile Production - Analysts

© REUTERS / KCNAA missile is launched during a long and medium-range ballistic rocket launch drill in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 30, 2017.
A missile is launched during a long and medium-range ballistic rocket launch drill in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang on August 30, 2017. - Sputnik International
MOSCOW (Sputnik), Tommy Yang - Producing more ballistic missiles and continuing to make advancement in its nuclear arms program could allow North Korea to have more options in future concrete concessions to the United States on denuclearization, as Pyongyang continues to test the patience of US President Donald Trump, experts told Sputnik.

US intelligence agencies believe North Korea is building new ballistic missiles capable of reaching US territory, based on new evidence such as satellite images, as Pyongyang continues to pursue advancement in its nuclear arms program, US media reported on Monday.

Following his historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore on June 12, Trump has faced mounting pressure from the domestic press for failing to secure specific actions toward denuclearization from Pyongyang, which simply repeated its previous commitment on denuclearization in the joint statement released at the summit.

READ MORE: US Intelligence Detects North Korea Developing New ICBMs — Reports

When US press reported about new evidence of continued progression of North Korea’s nuclear program and suggested Trump started to lose his patience, the US president lashed out at such reports as "fake news" and claimed that he was very happy with the situation regarding North Korea.

"A Rocket has not been launched by North Korea in 9 months. Likewise, no Nuclear Tests. Japan is happy, all of Asia is happy. But the Fake News is saying, without ever asking me (always anonymous sources), that I am angry because it is not going fast enough. Wrong, very happy!" Trump wrote in a tweet last week.

Trump's Bottom Line

Though North Korea seeks to ease tough economic sanctions from the United States, Pyongyang is also trying to figure out Trump’s bottom line by continuing to pursue its nuclear program and could easily promise to "halt development" as a new concrete concession to the United States in future negotiations, political analysts argued.

"I think North Korea has always been trying to find out when it is time to stop. Pyongyang could offer a few limited concessions that do not hurt its core nuclear capabilities and take advantage of the time during ongoing negotiations to establish what it considers to be effective nuclear deterrence capabilities, such as a sizable arsenal of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). As North Korea has not made a commitment to halt production of ICBMs, it can continue to do so," Zhao Tong, a fellow in Carnegie’s Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing, told Sputnik.

Zhao added that Pyongyang could easily take a step back to ease tensions, once they feel Trump has lost his patience.

"In the future, when North Korea feels it has touched Trump’s bottom line and the US president is ready to change his mind, Pyongyang could offer to ‘halt production’ as a fresh and important concession to the United States, which could ease tensions significantly," he said.

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un participate in a signing ceremony during a meeting on Sentosa Island, Tuesday, June 12, 2018, in Singapore - Sputnik International
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The expert believes that the latest reports of North Korea producing new ICBMs fit the nation’s original plan on its nuclear ambitions, which has not changed despite its commitment to denuclearization this year.

"Kim Jong-un made it very clear in his New Year’s speech for 2018 that this year’s task to mass produce nuclear warheads and missiles. Technology-wise, North Korea may have become satisfied with where it is today. But in terms of quantities, it may believe that the nation has not obtained the minimum size of a capable nuclear deterrence arsenal. This is just a step in its strategic plan," Zhao said.

Sanction Relief

By constructing new ICBMs at facilities that are easily monitored through satellites, North Korea could be taking such actions intentionally to seek more concessions, such as relief of economic sanctions, from the United States in ongoing negotiations, political analysts suggested.

"What I’m concerned about is why are they doing it in the open air under broad daylight? It’s another question because they could have done it somewhere underground or in secret. But they have done it in the open air, so everybody, including Japan, South Korea, the United States, Russia, and China, can see it. I believe they’re doing this to increase their leverage in terms of negotiations," Suh Kune-yull, a professor of nuclear engineering at Seoul National University, told Sputnik.

READ MORE: North Korea Preparing to Destroy ICBM Test Site — Reports

Suh explained that Pyongyang expects more concrete actions from the United States.

"They [North Korea] are asking the United States to do something more than rhetoric. They have already returned the remains of the US soldiers who died during the Korean War. But the United States has not loosened the economic sanctions. I think North Korea is becoming frustrated about the situation and is trying to send a message intentionally by building the ICBMs in the open air under broad daylight," he said.

The Seoul-based expert noted a growing gap between the expectations of the United States and North Korea.

"US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley are both very well aware of what is happening in North Korea. They both made statements regarding North Korea at the UN Security Council that the United States is going to maintain the "maximum pressure," which had been lost and now it came back. Basically, there is a growing gap between the United States and North Korea, when it comes to Pyongyang’s nuclear programs," Suh said.

Japan Self-Defense Force members set up a PAC-3 Patriot missile unit deployed ahead of North Korea's planned rocket launch at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo, Tuesday, June 21, 2016 - Sputnik International
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Suh argued that the summit on June 12 was not going to bear any fruit in the foreseeable future, as North Korea wanted to see something more tangible and concrete, such as relief of economic sanctions.

However, Zhao from the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy argued that the United States had lost its leverage over North Korea, when it comes to maintaining the maximum economic pressure, as China is unlikely to fully support the US side amid heated trade tensions between Beijing and Washington.

The views and opinions expressed by the researchers do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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