The crisis on the Korean Peninsula has dragged into Year 2018. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un began the New Year by a stern warning that the entire United States is within the range of the country’s nuclear weapons and that the “nuclear button” is always on his desk. But at the same time, he struck a conciliatory tone by wishing success for the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea and suggested that the North may send a delegation to participate. Following is a synopsis of an interview Press TV has conducted with Alexander Mercouris, the editor-in-chief of theduran.com, and Michael Lane, the founder of American Institute for Foreign Policy, about Kim’s New Year speech.
Michael Lane maintains that by making such a fiery speech, Kim was in fact seeking to warn Washington about the consequences of any attack on North Korea.
“I think that President Kim is exaggerating the circumstances. There are no intelligence services around the world that would, in their assessment, confirm what he says as the current state of affairs,” Lane said.
But that doesn’t change the fact that North Korea is moving increasingly closer to obtaining intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of targeting US soil, he added.
“I think he wants to draw a line in the sand. I think he wants to put the United States on notice that this is where they are going and at the same time, offering the olive branch to his counterpart in South Korea, President Moon, and saying that the time for direct dialog is now and the easiest way to open that dialog of course is over the Olympics.”
“It was an interesting ploy by President Kim. I think it is likely to be successful. I think everyone would really like to see the North Koreans send their delegation to the Olympics. It probably will enhance security,” the analyst noted.
However, Alexander Mercouris, the other panelist on the show, opined that although the world is certain about North Korea’s nuclear deterrent, no one can be certain about its details.
North Korea “has demonstrated atomic test. It has demonstrated ballistic missiles. Some of these missiles are known to have the reach to the extent of the continental United States. We cannot know for sure how advanced the warhead development is but it would be reckless, given how fast the rest of the program has proceeded, to assume that North Koreans are not able to strike where they say they can,” Mercouris said.
He also noted that since North Koreans have mastered major technical problems in the way of having a convincing nuclear deterrent, they want to cash in on that to move forward and develop a more stable situation on the Korean Peninsula which would give them both economic and security dividends.