North Korea held a military parade in Pyongyang Sunday to celebrate the 70th anniversary, but there was neither display of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) nor provoking words. This is a stark contrast to previous years when the regime conducted the fifth and sixth nuclear tests around the event held every Sept. 9.
Earlier at the general-level meeting between North Korea and the United States held at the truce village of Panmunjom on Thursday, the North conveyed Kim Jong Un’s personal letter to President Trump, the fourth of its kind since June. Breaking silence it has kept since Trump canceled U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang last month, the regime has apparently expressed its willingness to resume dialogue through Kim’s letter and the military parade devoid of provocations.
President Trump, who has been driven into a corner due to revelations made by The Washington Post’s associate editor Bob Woodward in his book and a critical Op-Ed published in The New York Times from an anonymous senior U.S. government official, welcomed the move and began to bring the issue to the fore again, saying that “Thank you to Chairman Kim.” As some U.S. media outlets point out, Trump may intend to use the developments with the North to break through the domestic political crisis in which he recently finds himself. Yet, it is anyway a positive thing if a stalemate in denuclearization talks can be broken. Also, should Mike Pompeo visit Pyongyang before the inter-Korean summit takes place from next Tuesday to Thursday, they may be able to discuss some give and take, possibly the reporting of a list outlining the country’s nuclear arsenal and the declaration of an end to the Korean War.
However, even if the two sides resume denuclearization talks, this is nothing but a temporary prescription. In order to ensure that the North does not deviate from the trajectory of denuclearization, we should make the regime to deeply realize that it will never be able to get rid of sanctions and isolation without disposing its nuclear weapons. Though Kim Jong Un greatly stressed this year’s celebration of the 70th anniversary in his new year’s address, the president of Mauritania was the only head of state in attendance on Sunday. Chinese President Xi Jinping also decided not to attend the military parade amid Trump’s criticism that Beijing had been “delaying the North’s implementation of denuclearization.” In the end, it was the realization of the harsh reality that the regime cannot free itself from international sanctions and isolation without denuclearization, even with China on its side, that made Kim Jong Un write another personal letter to Trump.