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North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme – Biden’s resilience test

The unveiling of the submarine launched ballistic missile by North Korea has shaken the nuclear weapons observers around the world. This missile described as the “most powerful weapon” by Korean officials has raised many eyebrows. 

North Korea has remained the problem child for states all over the world. In a world where nuclear norms were put in place to ensure the responsible behaviour with respect to nuclear weapons, North Korea continues to challenge them as well as global institutions. The United States (US) has played a major role in the initial set up as well as in maintaining a mechanism of checks and balances and hence North Korea is a constant source of concern.

There was a silver lining when US President Trump achieved a breakthrough when he visited North Korea in 2019 and became the first sitting American President to do so. He shook hands with the North Korean leader Kin Jong-Un in the demilitarised area which divides the country from South Korea. This was a big development for and came after the two leaders had met a year before in Singapore. These meetings indicated the possibility of ‘taming’ or socialising North Korea within the realms of the international relations order. However, with the change in the American leadership, the events that transpired before any possible negotiations have hinted the contrary.  

The North Korean Supreme leader Kim Jong Un in a political meeting with media, called United States the “biggest enemy”. In a state report made by the Seventh Central Committee of the Party, he spoke explicitly about the intentions of the country to “consolidate nuclear war deterrent and self reliant capabilities”.   He spoke of how the party’s primary goal should have been to develop a national nuclear force and modernise the current programme to align with anti-imperialist and independent forces around the world.

Thus, US President Biden saw the country doing a back flip on various fronts. US has a dual responsibility – to check the rogue state, and to continue from the process of negotiations with North Korea. The newly appointed US Secretary of State Andrew Blinken suggested that the administration planned on renewing the policy path for future discussions. The new policy is believed to be a combination of:

  • Humanitarian assistance
  • Phased agreement to offer respite from sanctions
  • Quick steps with a balance between pressure and breathing space

The US Policy is of utmost importance due to the historical mutual distrust and distaste that leaders from both the countries have shared on public portals. In the current state when countries all over the world have been struggling with the pandemic, these instances test the patience of state responses. Any response to the North Korean nuclear ambitions need to be well thought of and firm since the rogue states have one strength – the power of madman behaviour. With China being on the radar for American suspicions, the North Korean engagement is even more important and hence must be worked upon diligently.