Is Kim Jong-Un preparing for war with South Korea?

North Korean leader increases war rhetoric against Seoul and admits reunification is not possible

3 min
Kim Jong-Un reviewing military exercises

BeijingKim Jong-un has intensified war rhetoric at a time when he has made closer collaboration with Russia. American experts warn that the situation on the Korean peninsula is the most dangerous since 1950. We must see if we are just facing a new verbal provocation from the North Korean leader or if he is really preparing the country for a war.

Last Tuesday, in a speech Arsonist Kim Jong-un announced that he was giving up reunification with South Korea and threatened war. "We don't want war, but we have no intention of avoiding it," he said. And before the leadership of the Communist Party he asked to expand the nuclear arsenal. He committed to increasing ballistic missile testing and announced the launch of three new spy satellites in 2024. A bellicose message that left behind any policy of understanding with the southern neighbor. At the same time, it blew up the possibility of negotiating with the West, which is demanding that it stop its nuclear program to lift the harsh sanctions to which it has been subjected.

The data show that in recent years Pyongyang has rearmed: the 2023 launched a record number of missiles and a spy satellite. In addition, he maintains that he has the ability to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach United States territory. Even the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has certified that a second nuclear reactor has been put into operation at the Yongbyon plant, with the capacity to produce fuel and weapons. This week it pressed with the announcement that it had successfully tested, for the second time, an underwater drone capable of transporting nuclear weapons.

However, it is difficult to understand that the Pyongyang regime really threatens war. A war would be difficult for Pyongyang to win, despite the possibility of using nuclear weapons, which are a great risk for the region. Furthermore, China, North Korea's main ally and economic support, is not interested in a war off its coasts that involves Japan and South Korea, countries with which it is trying to reduce tensions.

The US report

They disagree in the United States. Well-known American analysts, in an alarming article already mentioned, warn that the current situation on the Korean Peninsula "is more dangerous than at any time since early June 1950," when the Korean War broke out.- _BK_COD_ The article is has published in “38 North”, a website specialized in analysis of North Korea. It is signed by Robert Carlin, former head of the Northeast Asia Division of the United States Department of State, with experience in negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, together with Siegfried Hecker, nuclear scientist and academic at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterrey.

Both analysts maintain that Kim has abandoned the objective of normalizing relations with the United States, which his regime had maintained since 1990 and that he himself pursued at the Singapore (2018) and Hanoi (2019) summits.

In the same medium, analysts like Thomas Schäfer have refuted the report's arguments. Other experts downplay the drama and interpret that the North Korean leader recognizes that there is no possibility of moving towards reunification.

Communist containment

The reality is that Seoul is now governed by the conservative president, Yoon Suk Yeol, of the People Power Party (PPP), who exercises a much more active policy of containment of the communist regime in Pyongyang than that led by the progressive Democratic Party of the previous one. President Lee Myung-bak.

Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, at the 2018 summit.

The possibilities of resuming contacts with the south or economic collaboration are nil. After Kim Jong-un's speech, the current president did not hesitate to accept the challenge and answer, with the same bellicose tone, that he would retaliate. Threats from the North could influence the legislative elections that South Korea will hold in April. We must also keep in mind that the United States is in an election year and North Korea is interested in putting pressure on it, since it has felt more comfortable with a president like Donald Trump, much more voluble than Joe Biden.

The reality that the international situation has changed and may favor Kim Jong-un's interests cannot be denied. Now the United States is under pressure from the invasion of Ukraine and the war in Gaza. A third front would be difficult for Washington to assume.

On the other hand, Pyongyang has moved even closer to Moscow and supports the invasion of Ukraine with the sale of weapons. Precisely this factor makes it difficult for the country to cope with the wear and tear of a conflict. The North Korean leader would like to establish an alliance between Russia, China and North Korea that demands a new world order. An even more real risk is that escalating verbal threats and saber rattling will lead to a technical error or misunderstanding that triggers conflict.