It Looks Like Kim Jong-Un Is Taking A Step Back From The Brink

Business Insider

REUTERS/KCNA

After more than  two months of increasingly hostile talk, there are signs that North Korean leader  Kim Jong-Un  has dialed it back a bit.

Last night a Japanese defense official said that North Korea (DPRK) had placed its missile launcher — presumably holding a medium-range Musudan missile — in a raised position.

A U.S. official now tells CNN that the rocket has been tucked back into its launcher — which could mean that a launch is less imminent or that DPRK was testing the equipment. Either way, it's the first time that Kim has backed off from one of his escalatory actions.

Furthermore, on Thursday the official Korean Central News Agency said that the closing of the Kaesong industrial complex — a South Korea-financed project that employs 53,000 North Korean workers — is  “temporary.” 

Kim Yong Hyun, a North Korean studies professor in Seoul, told Bloomberg that the statement " can be read as a sign of the North trying to, at least for now, keep the current situation from getting any worse.”

Daniel Pinkston , who focuses on North Korea for the  International Crisis Group , told NPR News that  in the past week the North Korean media has been focusing more on issues such as economic development.

Pinkston added that  once the U.S. and South Korean militaries conclude their joint exercises on April 30, North Korea "will probably claim victory. ... They will say that 'look, the Americans were really going to invade us. They were preparing for it and they ran away scared because of our nuclear deterrent [and] our great commander. ... Now we can celebrate.'"

This falls in line with what James Clapper, director of U.S. national intelligence, said  on Wednesday, which was that the U.S.  believes that Kim's bellicose rhetoric is to "consolidate and affirm his power" and to show he is "in control of North Korea."

The U.S. and its allies are still ready for anything.

America, which has wartime operational control of the South Korean military, deployed a THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense system and B-1 Lancer long-range bombers (nicknamed "Bones") to nearby Guam, in addition to F-22 Raptor stealth fighters in South Korea. Japan has deployed three Patriot missile-defense systems.



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