South Korea suspended (WSJ) its operations at the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex with North Korea on Wednesday, the last remaining project symbolizing efforts for reconciliation on the peninsula. Japan imposed new unilateral sanctions (Japan Times) against North Korea. Both moves come days after North Korea launched a long-range missile. Meanwhile, North Korea has restarted (Guardian) a plutonium reactor, according to U.S. intelligence chief James Clapper, and UN experts warned that North Korea continues to evade international sanctions. Separately, reports said that the chief of the North Korean military was executed (Yonhap) this month on corruption and other charges.
"Grandiosity, provocation and defiance clearly remain the key elements of North Korean foreign policy. But while claiming the satellite launch is a peaceful use of outer space in accordance with international norms, the international community rightly sees it differently. Though the intended use of a spacecraft cannot be discerned based solely on its capabilities, the existence of a spacecraft is difficult to hide. Consequently, North Korea has become adept at taking advantage of the dual-use nature of space technology, meaning technology with both civil and military utility, mixed with sometimes nonsensical propaganda, to develop long-range ballistic missiles," writes Joan Johnson-Freese for CNN.
"China has little reason to budge over North Korea without a quid pro quo further south, and whether the US and China can cooperate to create a peaceful and prosperous east Asia will determine the fate of the Korean peninsula. Isolating this issue from other problems in the wider region is unlikely to bear fruit. With today’s missile launch, North Korea was issuing a reminder that maintaining peace and stability in this part of the world is a complex and risky game," writes Christopher Green in the Guardian.
"In the absence of a strategic end and unified political will among the concerned parties, particularly the United States, China and South Korea, the “usual drill” will likely be ineffective in convincing or coercing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. From the beginning of the Obama administration, North Korea has rejected the extended hand that President Obama offered to other U.S. adversaries, instead clenching its fists and doubling down on the goal of developing a survivable nuclear strike capability. The young Kim’s claim to have developed hydrogen bomb capability underscores the fact that the nuclear program has become a useful tool for maintaining domestic legitimacy of the Kim regime," writes CFR's Scott Snyder.
CFR-Daily News Brief