North Korea missile threat as Joe Biden presidency risks Kim Jong-un’s wrath

North Korea: Military parade shows off new ballistic missiles

The relationship between Kim Jong-un and the US has been fraught for decades. During Barack Obama’s two terms as President, North Korea conducted 61 missile tests and under Donald Trump 40 were launched in addition to one hydrogen bomb test. Many hope for a new dynamic under President Biden, who was sworn in on Wednesday, but experts believe tensions are set to worsen.

It’s predicted that North Korea will further-showcase their nuclear weapons capabilities with increased missile tests in the imminent future.

Victor Cha, from the Centre for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), warned that the state will seek to “put themselves on the radar” of President Biden’s administration.

The former senior adviser’s beliefs stem from previous demonstrations by Kim’s state, which he claimed were to force the US to address sanctions against them.

The relationship with President Biden could already be under threat after he published an op-ed in a South Korean newspaper before the US Election in November.

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It’s believed that he provoked anger from the regime with the piece that reaffirmed the US’ support against North Korean hostility last October. 

While Sue Mi Terry, also of the CSIS, praised the new US leader as “the first presidential candidate to address the alliance’s issues and denuclearisation”, she suspected it would have infuriated Kim.

However, the former CIA analyst told The Impossible State podcast that Mr Biden’s article may have helped to sway South Korea away from feeling threatened by the Northern state.

His statement followed Mr Trump’s claim that he was “suspicious of allies free-riding off [US] military spending” amid Kim’s “tremendous progress” in developing a nuclear arsenal.

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Mr Cha pointed out that in the past North Korea had “ramped-up” missile testing to “compel the administration to deal with them”.

He highlighted that in the past provocations typically occurred around the time of “midterms and elections”.

In September, Mr Cha told The Impossible State that North Korea had a “clear preference” for the winner of the US election and it was Mr Trump.

The remark came before President Biden’s crushing victory over the then-incumbent leader by 306 votes to 232 in the Electoral College.

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Mr Cha continued: “They don’t want Biden because that means real diplomacy and real substantive negotiations where we are focused like a laser beam on their capabilities and denuclearisation.

“They want someone who is interested in the show and will agree to things that allow them to basically keep their capabilities, while declaring all of these wonderful accomplishments that have been made.”

Mr Cha believed that Mr Biden would “care less about the show”, which he felt was “the complete opposite” of what Kim would want. 

But Dr Seong-Ho Sheen, a professor who specialises in international security, predicted that the North Korean leader might be willing to reduce his military stockpile. 

He said: “Kim Jong-un may be a bit different in his approach, he will be much more open to a negotiation on his nuclear programme [and] looking for more of the economic opportunity.”

The move would be a surprise as the state has built up its military spending and had up to 40 nuclear weapons as of early 2020.

But Chris Mikul who wrote the 2019 book My Favourite Dictators felt there was no possibility of Kim considering nuclear disarmament.

Last year, he told “The reason they want nuclear weapons is because they know that it’s an insurance policy that will keep the regime in power forever.

North Korea ‘focused on military capacity’ says expert

“But in my opinion, he won’t pull the trigger because it would end up in the destruction of North Korea.”

While the future US-North Korea relationship is in question it is clear that the state would have preferred a second Trump term and have a stern-disliking of President Biden.

Chad O’Carroll, of the Korea Risk Group, pointed to a 2019 statement from Kim Yo-Jong, the dictator’s sister, where she voiced her contempt for the new US leader.

Her remarks were made after Mr Biden released a political advert that featured Mr Trump and Kim along with the words: “Dictators and tyrants are praised, our allies pushed aside.”

In KCNA, a news service that shares the regime’s propaganda, Kim Yo-Jong wrote: “Rabid dogs like Biden can hurt lots of people if they are allowed to run about. They must be beaten to death with a stick.”

Mr O’Carroll commented: “This is, in my opinion, a clear North Korean preference for Donald Trump, I don’t think they’re interested in Biden particularly.

“I don’t think they would be particularly interested in a slow, drawn-out, traditional diplomatic process at this stage.”

The Impossible State podcast offers insight into North Korea and is available here. 

Chris Mikul’s book ‘My Favourite Dictators’ was published by Headpress in 2019, it is available here. 

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