The reasons are easy to understand. Pyongyang won’t give up its missiles or nukes under any conditions and the Biden team won’t sacrifice the political capital needed to strike a compromise deal that Republicans and hawkish Democrats would attack the administration for.
Oh, and this is really important: we don’t have Donald Trump tweeting about big buttons or threatening nuclear war on North Korea anymore.
But, as they say, hope is not a strategy.
The Biden administration isn’t even practicing strategic patience like the Obama years at this point. I would call it giving up and accepting North Korea as a nuclear weapons state in a defacto sense and hoping no one calls them out on it.
The Next North Korea Crisis
But they will soon enough if North Korea decides to escalate tensions and test fire an ICBM so it lands just outside of the Exclusive Economic Zone of say Hawaii or Alaska. Here’s why I think that could be possible.
So far, North Korea’s ICBM testing dating back to 2017 has always been limited to lofted trajectory test fires that have the missiles landed in the Sea of Japan or East Sea. These particular missiles, designed to strike the U.S. homeland, have never flown over Japan and into the Pacific or near U.S. bases or territory.
However, these days, North Korea keeps threatening over and over to respond to recent U.S.-ROK military drills – no matter the fact that they are no threat to the Kim regime at all.
But this recent statement by Kim Yo Jong has me a little worried: “The frequency of using the Pacific as our firing range depends upon the U.S. forces’ action character.”
Now, to be fair, North Korea has dropped missiles into the Pacific before. But never a modern ICBM like the ones being tested since 2017 with a moratorium on testing those weapons until last year.
What if Kim Yo Jong is hinting that North Korea could start testing ICBMs at range and not just up in the air and down again – something they hinted at back on December 20 of last year?
Want more evidence? Remember this statement: “For several years, so-called experts have been saying that our ICBMs reentry into the atmosphere has not been recognized or verified…it seems obvious that they will try to disparage our strategic weapon capabilities with such a logic that it cannot be proven by a lofted-angle launch alone, and that it can only be known by firing at a normal angle…I’ll give an easy answer to that. We can try it soon and once you see it, you’ll know.”
What if her brother decided to up the ante and start firing missiles into the Pacific to test U.S. resolve? What if, knowing that Team Biden is a little busy with Ukraine these days, fired his ICBMs right into the Pacific?
And to take this a step further, if he really wanted to start a crisis, why not fire one of those missiles so it lands outside of U.S. waters – like say off of Hawaii or California?
This is North Korea we are talking about – and they are always looking for ways to get back into the news cycle. This would certainly fit the bill.
Harry J. Kazianis (@Grecianformula) is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive and serves as President and CEO of Rogue States Project, a bipartisan national security think tank. He has held senior positions at the Center for the National Interest, the Heritage Foundation, the Potomac Foundation, and many other think tanks and academic institutions focused on defense issues. He served on the Russia task force for U.S. Presidential Candidate Senator Ted Cruz, and in a similar role in the John Hay Initiative. His ideas have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, CNN, CNBC, and many other outlets across the political spectrum. He holds a graduate degree in International Relations from Harvard University and is the author of the book The Tao of A2/AD, a study of Chinese military modernization. Kazianis also has a background in defense journalism, having served as Editor-In-Chief at The Diplomat and Executive Editor for the National Interest.