Senior military officials watch a parade at the main Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018

commentary

(The National Interest)

November 26, 2018

How America Can Test North Korea's True Intentions

Senior military officials watch a parade at the main Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, September 9, 2018

Photo by Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

by Bruce W. Bennett

North Korea's buildup of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles is disrupting peace in Northeast Asia and may soon plummet the region into a serious Cold War—and maybe even a hot war.

While North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has suggested he may be prepared to abandon his nuclear ambitions, there has been no proof that he is serious. But the United States could take steps to discover Kim's true intentions.

This is not the first time North Korea has ramped up its Cold War. From 2012 to 2017, North Korea carried out a series of nuclear weapon and ballistic missile tests that were provocations, profoundly disrupting the peace in Northeast Asia. North Korea especially ramped these up in 2016 and 2017, creating major tensions.

Then in 2018, Kim began a charm offensive that included suspending his nuclear weapon and ballistic missile tests and appeared to volunteer to abandon his nuclear weapons. Through South Korea, Kim asked for a summit meeting with President Donald Trump to negotiate the details.

While Kim's offers gave the U.S. government sufficient hope to take part in the requested summit meeting, Kim then failed to deliver either denuclearization or plans for it. The level of nuclearization has for decades been measured by the number of nuclear weapons, their destructive potential, and the number of their delivery means (mainly ballistic missiles). There seems to be no evidence that any of these have declined.…

The remainder of this commentary is available at nationalinterest.org.


Bruce W. Bennett is a senior international/defense researcher at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.

This commentary originally appeared on The National Interest on November 22, 2018. Commentary gives RAND researchers a platform to convey insights based on their professional expertise and often on their peer-reviewed research and analysis.