With the successful Hwasong-15 test, North Korea’s final goal is in sight

Andrei Lankov writes: As long as the United States doesn’t use military force (at the cost of risking a major war), nothing can stop North Korean leaders from becoming the third country in the world, after Russia and China, capable of annihilating any American city.

Perhaps North Korean decision-makers hope that once they have the first strike capability in place, they will be in a position to start negotiating and, perhaps, negotiate a freeze under favorable conditions.

CNN recently cited a statement by an unnamed North Korean official who said: “Before we can engage in diplomacy with the Trump administration, we want to send a clear message that the DPRK has a reliable defensive and offensive capability to counter any aggression from the United States.”

These words are not surprising to the majority of North Korea watchers who have long known that this is exactly Pyongyang’s strategy or, at least, its plan A (there might be a plan B and a plan C, of course).

But it is remarkable that the intention to look for compromise after acquiring the first strike capability has been expressed in such explicit terms by a Pyongyang representative.

North Korea’s decision-makers believe that they have just a few more steps before they arrive at their strategic goal. Once there, they can begin negotiating and seriously reduce international pressure. They likely expect that if they agree to freeze launches and nuclear tests, many of the sanctions will be lifted. They are probably right. [Continue reading…]

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