Guarantees of no overthrow by U.S.
Before President Trump unleashed his incendiary attacks on Kim this week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the administration does not favor a regime change and seeks a diplomatic solution to halt the North’s weapons program.
Kim looks at states like Iraq, where former dictator Saddam Hussein was overthrown by the United States, and believes that the only way for his country to ensure that his regime remains in power is through nuclear ambitions.
Developing nuclear weapons that threaten the United States is Kim’s insurance policy against being overthrown by a U.S.-led coalition, Joo Seong-ha, a defector who was imprisoned in North Korea before escaping to South Korea, told USA TODAY.
A nuclear weapons program is “the most powerful bargaining chip that North Korea has,” said Joo.
Keep nuclear weapons
The Washington Post, citing a confidential Defense Intelligence Agency report, said this week that North Korea has produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles. The warhead breakthrough is considered a crucial advancement on the path to producing a nuclear weapon capable of striking the U.S. mainland, experts said.
In addition to its nuclear arsenal, the nation has rockets and artillery aimed at Seoul, the South Korean capital that is only 35 miles from the Demilitarized Zone separating the two countries. North Korea has launched more than a dozen test missiles this year.
North Korea has said many times it has no intention of giving up its nuclear weapons. The U.S. has not accepted the North as a nuclear power but it might have to accept that reality in light of Kim’s rapid technological advances and stockpile of nuclear armaments.
Since North Korea’s first nuclear test in 2006, the United Nations has imposed ever-tightening sanctions on the rogue regime to force it to halt its weapons programs.
The latest sanctions, approved unanimously by the United Nations Security Council on Aug. 5, ban North Korean exports of coal, iron, iron ore, lead, lead ore and seafood, which are worth about $1 billion or a third of the country’s foreign revenue. North Korea accused the U.S. of “trying to drive the situation of the Korean Peninsula to the brink of nuclear war” after the latest sanctions were adopted.
Kim has managed to modernize his nation and improve its economy despite nine years of sanctions, but would like relief to make faster progress. That won’t happen without major concessions, such as freezing his weapons programs in place and abandoning more tests.