North Korea is expected to declare a suspension of its nuclear talks with the US as the regime has already decided to beef up its military capability and accelerate self-development of the economy next year, experts said on Tuesday.
During a press conference hosted by Institute for Far Eastern Studies, experts offered a pessimistic outlook on North Korea’s relations with the US and South Korea due to the packed domestic politics in 2020 in each country, such as the presidential election in the US and a general election in South Korea.
In this file photo taken on June 30, North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un walks to greet US President Donald Trump at the Military Demarcation Line that divides North and South Korea, in the Joint Security Area of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized zone. (AFP-Yonhap)
Pyongyang has already sought a “new way,” which it had threatened to take if Washington maintains its sanctions and pressure, in mid-October when Kim visited the country’s sacred Paektusan. The mountain is where leaders of the North often climb when making key decisions.
“As part of its pursuit of the new way, there is a high possibility that the North will declare a suspension of the North Korea-US talks and seek a breakthrough through (support from) Russia and China,” said Kim Dong-yeop, professor of North Korean studies at Kyungnam University’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies.
Through a series of short-range missile tests and statements by senior North Korean leaders, Pyongyang has been warning Washington to put forward plans for “security guarantees” and the alleviation of sanctions before the end of the year, a deadline imposed by the regime’s ruler.
As what the North demands from the US is “explicit,” chances are very slim that the two sides will reach an agreement before the deadline. Any deal with North Korea could potentially pose a risk for Trump who seeks his second term in the 2020 election, Kim said. “Kim Jong-un seems to have understood that Trump is not able to seal a deal.”
While maintaining the status quo with the US next year, North Korea may improve the quality and quantitative of nuclear power by reactivating nuclear facilities in Yongbyon and Dongchang-ri, parts of which the North claims to have dismantled as part of its denuclearization process.
However, the North is unlikely to cross Trump’s red line by conducting intercontinental ballistic missile tests, with an eye to resume nuclear talks with Washington in 2021.
There is a possibility that they may start a second round of negotiations in the second half of 2021 after the next US administration completes personnel changes and North Korea holds a Party Congress in spring.
“North Korea will end the dialogue with the US next year but they won’t make an extreme decision to cross the red line because they know that talks with the US is the fastest and most attractive way to resolve (nuclear) issues,” Kim said.