Hint, hint. The US and its allies demanded more forceful action from the United Nations Security Council after North Korea claimed success in testing a miniaturized hydrogen bomb and the capability of delivering it via ICBM to the US. In response, North Korea’s top diplomat promised that Pyongyang had prepared “more gift packages from my country” for the US:
“The recent self-defense measures by my country DPRK are gift package addressed to none other than the U.S.,” North Korea’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva Han Tae Song said today. …
“The U.S. will receive more gift packages from my country as long as it relies on reckless provocations and futile attempts to put pressure on the DPRK,” Han said today, addressing the U.N. Conference on Disarmament today in Geneva.
The ambassador said his country’s latest test was “part of longer activities” by the North “to simultaneously push forward economic construction and [build] nuclear force.”
One has to conclude that they’re more interested in the latter than the former. In an economy as restricted as North Korea’s Stalinist model, there isn’t enough resources to fund both guns and butter. Their populace is constantly on the brink of starvation as it is, so clearly economic construction in the short run isn’t their top priority.
What they want, presumably, is to use their nuclear weapons to force an end to sanctions so that they can then put more money into their economy. As long as they stick with the Stalinist model, it won’t matter much anyway to the ordinary men and women in North Korea; any new resources will go to the military, as it does now. And if they didn’t want to stick with that model, then why bother with the nuclear weapons? They could have easily saved billions of dollars and sanctions while sliding into a Beijing model of state-run enterprises, shifting from communism to fascism, while demonstrating the small differences between the two.
South Korea’s defense ministry suggests adding back some gift packages of its own:
South Korea’s defense minister on Monday said it was worth reviewing the redeployment of American tactical nuclear weapons to the Korean Peninsula to guard against the North, a step that analysts warn would sharply increase the risk of an accidental conflict. …
Earlier Monday, South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo said that he asked his American counterpart, Jim Mattis, during talks at the Pentagon last week that strategic assets such as U.S. aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines and B-52 bombers be sent to South Korea more regularly.
“I told him that it would be good for strategic assets to be sent regularly to the Korean Peninsula and that some South Korean lawmakers and media are strongly pushing for tactical nuclear weapons [to be redeployed],” Song told a parliamentary hearing on North Korea’s nuclear test, without disclosing Mattis’s response.
A poll that YTN, a cable news channel, commissioned in August found that 68 percent of respondents said they supported bringing tactical nuclear weapons back to South Korea.
That presumably would be a gift package for China rather than North Korea. Beijing does not want US nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula, even more than they don’t want THAAD deployed, for the obvious reason that they pose a threat to China itself. It’s not all that much different than the Soviet Union installing nuclear weapons on Cuba, in that sense. The US and its allies have other platforms to threaten nuclear attack — missile submarines being the most acute threat — but that doesn’t mean that China will sit idly by while another level of threat gets added.
The Trump administration has not directly responded to that suggestion, but they did announce that they will raise the caps on arms sales to Tokyo and Seoul:
I am allowing Japan & South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2017
A White House readout of Trump’s Monday call with South Korean President Moon Jae-in had hinted at the president’s announcement, sharing that the U.S. president had “provided his conceptual approval for the purchase of many billions of dollars’ worth of military weapons and equipment from the United States by South Korea.”
Think of those as gift packages to China too, but in a different way. Trump’s signaling that he still wants to give China room to produce a resolution to the threat from Pyongyang, but that the window is closing. This time, the sales will be for conventional weapons, about which Beijing probably worries little. The next time it might be the nuclearization of Japan, about which Beijing will worry a lot.