There were hints that this could be coming but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. North Korea has announced it will suspend it’s nuclear and missile testing as of Saturday. From USA Today:
The Korean Central News Agency, which is North Korea’s state media agency, made the announcement as the reclusive nation’s leaders are in ongoing peace talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is also in negotiations to meet with President Trump.
“From April 21, North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles,” the Korean Central News Agency said in a report.
The report added, “the North will shut down a nuclear test site in the country’s northern side to prove the vow to suspend nuclear test.”
President Trump quickly highlighted the news on Twitter:
North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the World – big progress! Look forward to our Summit.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 20, 2018
We’re not used to seeing anything like rational decisions from the Hermit Kingdom. They’ve been making broad threats about nuking the United States for years. Last year they made tremendous progress toward actually being able to follow through on those threats, launching a series of missile tests which experts confirmed would be capable of reaching nearly all of the US mainland. Kim Jong Un was also seen next to what he claimed was a miniaturized nuclear warhead suitable for mounting on a missile. Last August the Pentagon concluded the North Koreans really did have nuclear warheads suitable for a missile strike. The news, in short, was very bad.
That was about the time that President Trump issued a warning saying if North Korea made any more threats they would be met with “fire and fury.”
There were plenty of people concerned about the President’s rhetoric at the time:
There are many ways to communicate a threat to North Korea. Booming rash threats from the golf links = if not the very worst, then close
— David Frum (@davidfrum) August 8, 2017
But somehow we seem to have gotten off on the right track. We went from “fire and fury” to no more nukes in a matter of 8 months. Less than that because as recently as December North Korea was calling UN sanctions against it an “act of war.” And the country first indicated it might be willing to talk about denuclearization last month. So that’s really just about 3 months to go from belligerence to reconsideration. In between, there was the weird episode at the Olympics in February when Kim’s sister was treated like a red carpet celebrity by the media even as they scolded Vice President Pence. Now we learn that Mike Pompeo had a meeting with Kim Jong Un over Easter weekend and a meeting between Kim and Trump seems all but certain at this point.
I really don’t know how this happened but clearly, the sanctions and Trump’s pressure on China to crack down must have had some impact. Kim Jong Un can keep talking tough but meanwhile, his nation is starving to death. As Jazz pointed out back in January, North Korea was even telling its own soldiers to steal food from rural farmers because it could no longer feed them.
Remember that daring escape last November when a North Korean soldier drove a car to the border and ran across pursued by fellow soldiers trying to kill him? He was shot five times and it was something of a miracle he lived. He later woke up in a South Korean hospital where surgeons had removed dozens of parasites including an 11-inch worm that was living in his gut. The doctor who saved his life said he’d only seen something like it in medical textbooks.
Bottom line: Kim Jong Un may like pretending he’s the big man on campus but his country was reaching the point where even the best off were living in the worst 3rd world conditions of privation. I’m not suggesting for a minute that makes his latest declaration trustworthy. I fully expect his plan is to capitalize on this moment of sanity and then go right back to building missiles. But at least for this moment, it seems things are so bad that he’s willing to humble himself a little. Hopefully, that’s a start toward something better for the North Korean people.