(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 17)
Kim's brinkmanship tactics
North Korean leader must stop escalating tension
North Korea carried out a fresh missile test Sunday as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was on his way to Korea for a meeting with acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn amid rising tension on the Korean Peninsula.
Korean and U.S. military authorities confirmed that the missile test failed, exploding almost immediately after it was launched. The failure came one day after North Korea celebrated the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il-sung, leader Kim Jong-un's grandfather, with a massive military parade. North Korea flaunted nearly 60 missiles, including what is believed to be its new intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The world had been eyeing a potential nuclear or missile launch around Kim Il-sung's birthday after a ballistic missile test earlier this month ahead of the first U.S.-China summit after U.S. President Donald Trump assumed office in January.
It is highly worrisome that Pyongyang chose to attempt a fresh provocation even after warnings from Washington that the new U.S. administration will handle Pyongyang in its own way if China does not do enough to pressure the North. Trump has tweeted, "North Korea is looking for trouble. If China decides to help, that would be great. If not, we will solve the problem without them."
The new U.S. administration carried out tough military actions in the past week. While he was meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump ordered airstrikes on Syria in response to the Assad regime's use of chemical weapons. The U.S. dropped a massive bomb, nicknamed the "mother of all bombs" in Afghanistan to destroy ISIS positions.
There is speculation that the use of the largest non-nuclear bomb in the U.S. arsenal was not just to send a message to ISIS, but a way to threaten Kim Jong-un.
After Trump's latest military strikes, North Korea has heightened its warmongering and vowed to continue its nuclear tests. In an AP interview, North Korea's Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol called Trump "more vicious and more aggressive" than his predecessor, adding that his country would keep developing nuclear weapons and possibly conduct a nuclear test "at a time and place" upon instructions from Kim Jong-un.
He also said his country was ready for war with the U.S. and that it was also capable of a pre-emptive strike of its own.
Kim Jong-un should realize that his country has nothing to gain with brinkmanship tactics, which will only increase tension in the region and further isolate his country from the international community. A fresh nuclear test will bring severe consequences.
Speculation is mounting that Pyongyang may conduct a sixth nuclear test around the 85th anniversary of the founding of the North Korean army on April 25. Korea and the U.S. should maintain close consultations in responding to Pyongyang's additional provocations.