North Korea has delayed its much-anticipated “Christmas surprise” of a major intercontinental ballistic missile test out of concern that such a provocation — after two years of stop-start nuclear diplomacy — would trigger sharp negative reactions from Washington and the international community.
South Korean analysts, including a high-level defector from the North, say Pyongyang’s planning for a launch also has been delayed by the coronavirus outbreak in China, which shares a long border with North Korea and serves as its closest security and economic ally.
“The most friendly country of North Korea — China — is having serious difficulties, and North Korea doesn’t want to make things worse,” said Lee Gee-dong, vice president of the Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul. “I think for the coming three or four months, it will be quite quiet and the North Koreans will not carry out any provocative or dangerous actions against the world.”
After three inconclusive meetings between President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Pyongyang threatened to take a “new path” if the U.S. didn’t back off its demands for swift denuclearization by the start of 2020. But Mr. Lee said in an interview that North Korea’s Mr. Kim likely believes the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) or a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) would anger and unsettle China as well as nearby Russia. . .
“The North Koreans did not come through with any ‘Christmas present’ and they have not taken any ‘new path’ because they are well aware of the side effects that could be had,” Mr. Lee told The Washington Times. He said the Kim regime is “wary of ruining the relationship it has successfully built with Russia and China and the support it is getting from those two countries.” (Read more from “North Korea Scraps ‘Christmas Surprise’ Amid China Woes” HERE)