Small Wars Journal

01/09/2021 News & Commentary - Korea

Sat, 01/09/2021 - 11:08am

News and Commentary by Dave Maxwell. Edited and Published by Riley Murray.


1. On Report Made by Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un at 8th Congress of WPK

2. Fourth-day Sitting of 8th WPK Congress Held

3. VOA: [Washington Talk/English] Kim Jong-un "America's 'largest enemy'... Continued development of 'super large nuclear warhead'"

4. N. Korea's Kim calls U.S. 'our biggest enemy,' says its hostile policies never change

5. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has threatened to expand his nuclear arsenal in response to what he calls US hostility

6. Why COVID-19 could signal change on the Korean peninsula

7. Did North Korea Just Signal It Wants to Talk?

8. Kim Jong Un's goal: 'enhance nuclear preemptive and retaliatory strike capabilities'

9. S. Korea reaffirms commitment to implementing inter-Korean agreements

10. N. Korea's military parade may be postponed due to heavy snow

11. S. Korea should find diplomatic solutions to resolve wartime sex slave issue

12. FM calls for Japan not to respond excessively to court ruling on 'comfort women'

13. South Korea in dilemma over joint military drill

14. Kim calls U.S. 'biggest enemy,' vows to continue nuclear development


1. On Report Made by Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un at 8th Congress of WPK

Here is KJU's translated final report to the 8th Party Congress. It ends with "continue" so there may be more (it does not have a decisive ending); however, I could not find a part 2 on the web site.  Perhaps we will get updates over the weekend, I have already provided my initial assessment.  There is still a lot more to parse from this.  But I want to really highlight one key excerpt because this gives the most important insight into the true nature of the Kim family regime and the fact that KJU has no intention to give up nuclear weapons and instead will continue to develop them.


“The peculiarities of the Korean revolution, which has to be carried out in centuries-old direct confrontation with the aggressor forces of the U.S., the world's first user of nukes and war chieftain which divided the Korean territory and nation, and the geopolitical features of our state called for pushing ahead with the already-started building of the nuclear force without interruption for the welfare of the people, destiny of the revolution, existence and independent development of the state.

The Party Central Committee headed by the Supreme Leader planned a breakthrough operation for carrying out the great cause of building the nuclear force, inspired the entire party and all people to implementation of the line of simultaneously pushing forward the two fronts and organized and launched an intensive ideological campaign for preparing the national defence scientists and nuclear scientists as genuine revolutionaries, patriots and members of death-defying corps.”


I also am including Duyeon Kim's excellent initial twitter analysis.  Notice there are differences in the English and Korean translations.  When she publishes her detailed analysis in the Atomic Bulletin I will of course forward that as well.  But I think this twitter thread provides some important insights. If you do not follow Duyeon on Twitter you should but I doubt, there are any Korea Watchers who do not follow her.


Duyeon Kim



KJU's Party Congress report carried by Rodong Shinmun (in Korean) is 34 pages long.... At first glance of KCNA's short summary report (in Korean), nothing new or different in NK policy toward the US and SKorea. More to come (after several morning errands)..1/

7:31 PM · Jan 8, 2021·Twitter for Android


Alas, life on a Saturday took over and I'm finally reading the original Korean text. Correction, 28 pages pasted in Word (not 34). Here are some thoughts in no particular order; my upcoming

@BulletinAtomic column will be more organized, coherent, and focused..2/


KCNA's English summary (KJU's words in Korean via Rodong Shinmun), they left out a huge section on South-North relations. Frustratingly, many sections aren't graph-by-graph translations so it's hard to match up. Nuke plans section in English is missing several details..3/


We should remember that these Reports (aka KJU's words) are largely for domestic consumption to encourage his people and consolidate unity around him, so there's always rhetorical "fluff" (exaggeration). So we shouldn't overestimate or underestimate his words/declarations..4/


As expected and in line with a series of NK official comments over the past several months, NK put the ball in US & S Korean courts to improve relations. It reiterated that its core policies & positions won't change regardless of who's in the White House..5


It reiterated everything depends on the US dropping 'hostile policy' first, whose definition recently expanded to include combined milex, sanx, deployed strategic assets, name-calling. Says its 'strong military power' will guide its diplomacy in the 'right direction'..6/


He justifies the push for stronger defense capabilities because 'imperialism still exists in the world' & 'danger of war of aggression from our enemies.'


Someone needs to teach NK how to run threat assessments or this line is just an excuse to continue military modernization..7/


List of weapons (English version omits details like range) is noteworthy but not surprising: makes sense & expected from what we have known about NK's nuke plans/strategy/goals. Some declarations are exaggerated cuz capability doesn't yet support, but still shows goals..8/


Still, weapons list in such detail plus reiterating its byungjin strategic line (parallel military/nuke-econ dev) foreshadows strategic provocations to come & shows NK isn't sophisticated in conducting diplomacy. Maybe it's also intentional to show strength & to pressure..9/


Although it's not new NK would resume provocations at some point--depending on time & circumstance--his words & tone suggest NK won't be the first to budge on talks. When NK provokes, we can assume all doors would shut with the US tougher measures NK reactions tensions..10/


On inter-Korean relations, NK again spoke very arrogantly & put pressure on  to acquiesce. NK has nukes & announced plans to perfect tac nukes that target, yet it demanded Seoul end milex with, halt weapons purchases, stop calling NK actions 'provocations'..11/


Basically, NK is again calling on S. Korea to return to pan-Korean roots & break from the US. His remarks are another reminder that Moon's peace plans before leaving office are bleak. Seoul will likely feel more pressured to facilitate US-NK talks asap, but the bar is high..12/


All his tough talk doesn't necessarily mean there's no chance for &  talks this year. It means the price is very high for talks & higher for negotiating agreements. NK's Party Congress isn't over & we will have to see what more comes out of it. To be continued..13/


2. Fourth-day Sitting of 8th WPK Congress Held

Here is a report about the 4th Day of the 8th Party Congress from KCNA.

Ponder this conclusion (with appropriate "revolutionary zeal"): The fourth-day sitting of the 8th Congress of the WPK helped all the participants fully display their revolutionary zeal to suit to the character of the congress for work, struggle and progress and harden their firm faith and transparent resolution to fulfill the sacred responsibility and duty in the course of implementing the fighting programme set forth in the report on the work of the Party Central Committee.


3. VOA: [Washington Talk/English] Kim Jong-un "America's 'largest enemy' ... Continued development of 'super large nuclear warhead'"

At the link is the 20 minute Voice of America weekly talk show, "Washington Talk."  The target audience for this broadcast is the regime elite in Pyongyang and. of course the Korean people in the north.  

Young Gyo Kim hosted Scott Snyder and me to discuss the final report of the KWP's  8th Party Congress. Again, because the target audience is in the north a number of my comments are focused on attacking (objectively I hope) the legitimacy of Kim Jong-un and exposing his bankrupt policies and poor decision making and the suffering he is causing the Korean people living in the north.


4. N. Korea's Kim calls U.S. 'our biggest enemy,' says its hostile policies never change

The Washington Post – by Simon Denyer - January 9, 2021

There will be a lot of reporting on the 8th Party Congress and Kim Jong-un's rather provocative concluding statements.


5.  North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has threatened to expand his nuclear arsenal in response to what he calls US hostility

Chicago Tribune · by Hyung-Jin Kim

There should be no doubt that Kim Jong-un has no intention to denuclearize.  This is why we recommended changing strategic assumptions in our proposal for a new strategy.  Here was our "Plan B" recommendation much of which I think is still applicable, perhaps more than ever.

In a forthcoming strategic assessment of the past four years my colleague Mathew Ha and I provide these recommendations:


By ramping up diplomacy and pressure at this pivotal moment, the Biden administration may be able to strengthen ties with South Korea and force Kim Jong-un to accept denuclearization. This appears to be his goal. In October 2020, then-former Vice President Joe Biden wrote:

"As President, I'll stand with South Korea, strengthening our alliance to safeguard peace in East Asia and beyond, rather than extorting Seoul with reckless threats to remove our troops. I'll engage in principled diplomacy and keep pressing toward a denuclearized North Korea and a unified Korean Peninsula, while working to reunite Korean Americans separated from loved ones in North Korea for decades."

The following recommendations can assist that vision:

* Develop an alliance strategy for the Korean Peninsula.

* Impose a "maximum pressure 2.0" campaign integrating not only sanctions but also other critical levers of U.S. and allied power.

* Make human rights a priority.

* Despite past failures, continue efforts to establish a substantive working-level dialogue between the United States and North Korea.

* Encourage Chinese and Russian support for denuclearization while holding them accountable for ongoing violations of UN sanctions they claim to support.

* Strengthen allied military posture.

* Stabilize the Special Measures Agreement (cost sharing) process:

* Coordinate a comprehensive strategy for North Korean cyber-attacks: 


6. Why COVID-19 could signal change on the Korean peninsula · by Angela Kane

What do you do when Kim Jong-un and the KWP does not prioritize human security?  How can we want it more than Kim Jong-un?  The international community has offered help in multiple forms and thorough multiple venues.  Kim Jong-un has not been willing to accept any substantive assistance especially from South Korea which has been very willing to provide it.

We must understand that Kim fears the Korean people in the north more than he fears any threat from the US.

Conclusion: Prioritizing human security for the DPRK in the current situation facing the country holds the potential for a new path for peace and eventual Great Reset on the Korean peninsula. This requires courage to overcome fears and distrust, and willingness to make strategic choices by the leadership of North Korea. It also requires international openness, especially by the United States South Korea and Japan, to take advantage of the opportunity at the present moment as the world reimagines many aspects of global life in the aftermath of the pandemic, to also make strategic choices to pursue new approaches in relations and negotiations with the DPRK to seek sustained peace and prosperity for the Korean people and the Northeast Asia region.


7. Did North Korea Just Signal It Wants to Talk?

The National Interest · by Daniel R. DePetris · January 8, 2021

Perhaps, but...

Some premature analysis obviously written before the final statement from the 8th Party Congress.  But I think Kim is signaling it wants to talk. But on its terms and from a perceived position of strength that makes the regime appear to be negotiating on an "equal footing" with the US.


8. Kim Jong Un's goal: 'enhance nuclear preemptive and retaliatory strike capabilities'

Newsweek · by Tom O'Connor · January 8, 2021

Yes. He has no intention of completely denuclearizing. 


9. S. Korea reaffirms commitment to implementing inter-Korean agreements · by 이원주 · January 9, 2021

With all due respect to Minister Lee, this is insanity. Kim is not going to accept South Korea's version of engagement. What is worse when it does accept it the regime will do so because it thinks its political warfare strategy is working and giving the north an advantage.  But engagement by the South is not going to result in any change in behavior by the north and it is not going to result in improved relations and certainly not denuclearization.  And the Propaganda and Agitation Department will eventually spin South Korean offers as kowtowing to the regime.


10. N. Korea's military parade may be postponed due to heavy snow – by Kyu-Jin Shin – 9 January 2021

It isn’t over till it's over. We have to see what will be displayed in the parade.  I think the "new" ICBM and SLBM will be the exclamation point to KJU's remarks and may foreshadow some kind of test launch (assuming they are operational or at least ready for primetime testing.


11. S. Korea should find diplomatic solutions to resolve wartime sex slave issue – 9 January 2020

The recent court decision is probably going to be overshadowed by the recent news from north Korea. But this is going to obviously cause more friction in the ROK-Japan relationship.


12. FM calls for Japan not to respond excessively to court ruling on 'comfort women' · by 송상호 · January 9, 2021

I am afraid the Japanese will regard this as a tone-deaf response by the Foreign Minister and this will further inflame rather than tamp down tensions.


13. South Korea in dilemma over joint military drill

The Korea Times – Kang Seung-woo - January 9, 2021

The OPCON transition issue is growing on the Korean side.  The Biden administration is going to have to deal with this quickly.  It is imperative we get this done right but also in as timely a manner possible that conditions will allow.  The question for both the ROK and US militaries that the civilian leaders should be asking are:

1) Is everything being done to meet the conditions?

2) What resources does the ROK military need to meet the conditions?

3) Is the ROKG willing to provide the necessary resources for the ROK military to meet the conditions?  (or is it only interested in a transition to meet a political timeline?)


14. Kim calls U.S. 'biggest enemy,' vows to continue nuclear development · by 최수향 · January 9, 2021

Here it is.  Now that Kim knows that President-elect Biden will be the next President Kim has decided to state his policy. (I believe Kim may have been usure of the US political situation and may have believed Trump would remain in power and so he refrained from making a policy declaration until now)    

Here is my initial (hasty) analysis.

At first read it is an apparent hardline policy and a continuation of KJU's political warfare resting on the foundation of blackmail diplomacy - the use of increased tension, threats, and provocations to gain political and economic concessions.

He believes the US policy will remain hostile despite the transition of administrations.  We should keep in mind his demands for the removal of the US hostile policy.  KJU defines an end to the US hostile policy as the end of the alliance, removal of troops from South Korea, and an end to extended deterrence and the nuclear umbrella over the ROK and Japan.  And the purpose of this pursuit of the end of the hostile policy is to support KJU's long term strategy and objectives which can be described as the seven decades old strategy of subversion, coercion-extortion (blackmail diplomacy), and the use of force to achieve unification dominated by the Guerrilla Dynasty and Gulag State in order to ensure the survival of the mafia like crime family cult known as Kim family regime.

That said KJU seems to be willing to negotiate but it will likely be from an arms control perspective with the US and north Korea as "equals" much like the US-USSR SALT and START talks.  Kim wants to be treated as a nuclear power.

A key point is that it is apparent that Kim has no intention of giving up his nuclear weapons.  He claims he will be a responsible nuclear power and will refrain from use if he is not targeted.  

Note also that KJU blames South Korea for the lack of progress on north-South engagement.  That is really amazing since South Korea has tried so hard to engage with the north. It is the north that has not responded.  And the comments about the Comprehensive Military Agreement are particularly disingenuous as South Korea has faithfully implemented the agreement and the north has not reciprocated in any substantive way.  

In the end, the north is going to continue its hardline policy, will not denuclearize, will talk to the US but on what KJU perceives as an equal footing as a nuclear power, and he blames the South for the lack of north-South engagement.

So, what should the ROK and US do?

First and foremost, the ROK and US must reassess the fundamental strategic assumptions about the regime.  The regime will not seek peace and reconciliation based on President Moon's vision.  The Biden and Moon administrations should use the MOFA-DOS strategy working group and the military committee to develop a strategic political-military approach based on new assumptions about the regime that is focused on the long-term solution which is the answer to the "Korea question."

Again, there is no silver bullet to the north Korea problem. This is why we need to focus on the long-term solution to the security and prosperity challenges on the Korean peninsula.  Again, that is to focus on resolving the Korean question, "the unnatural division of the peninsula."   Solve that and the nuclear issues and the human rights abuses and crimes against humanity will be ended.  The question to ask is not what worked and what did not, but whether our combined actions will advance our interests and move us closer to the acceptable, durable political arrangement that will protect, serve, and advance US and ROK/US alliance interests?  
The way ahead is deterrence, defense, denuclearization and solving the "Korea question" (e.g., unification) with the understanding that denuclearization of the north will only happen when we resolve the Korea question. 

Below is the English Yonhap article.  KCNA has not yet published KJU's remarks in English.  They will probably come out overnight.

Here are some (hastily translated) excerpts from a longer Yonhap article in Korea (thanks to one of our great VOA journalists who provided these to me):



"Extremism in defense of liberty is not a vice, but I denounce political extremism, of the left or the right, based on duplicity, falsehood, fear, violence and threats when they endanger liberty."

- George W. Romney


"Non-violence is not a passive idea. It is ethical activism at its political best."

- Ela Bhatt


"I am deeply disturbed by the senseless violence instigated by some leaders in pursuit of their personal political agenda."

- Mwai Kibaki

Categories: News