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North Korea tries to sow seeds of doubt on US extended deterrence

North Korea’s ceaseless missile launches, despite the deployment of more powerful U.S. military assets on the Korean Peninsula, are aimed at raising concerns in South Korea and Japan about the credibility of the U.S.’ extended deterrence for its allies, according to Victor Cha, senior vice president for Asia and head of the Korea division at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

The Kim Jong-un regime has ratcheted up tensions on the Korean Peninsula by launching ballistic missiles on 31 occasions this year, including eight rounds of intercontinental ballistic (ICBM) missile launches. Plus, the self-proclaimed nuclear state has been preparing for its next nuclear test, which would be its first since 2017 and seventh overall.

“By threatening the United States homeland with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, North Korea also wants to try to raise doubt in the minds of Japanese and South Koreans about the credibility of U.S. extended deterrence commitments to its allies in the region, such that South Korea will be weaker,” Cha said during an interview on the U.S. public radio station NPR, Tuesday (local time).

Despite the U.S.’ firm assurance of the extended deterrence ― a commitment to use a full range of capabilities, including nuclear weapons, to deter attacks on allies ― there are growing questions as to whether Washington will keep its word in the event of a North Korean attack on the continental U.S.

In addition, North Korea launched ballistic missiles even though South Korea and the U.S. held combined aerial and naval exercises recently involving U.S. strategic assets, including an aircraft carrier and strategic bombers, raising concerns over the effectiveness of the U.S.’ extended deterrence in stopping the North’s increasing military provocations.

“I think the increased exercising is important for defense and deterrence, but it’s not going to stop the missile testing and the missile launching,” Cha said, adding that the only thing that stopped North Korea’s provocations previously was talks between the U.S. and North Korea.

However, he also said the North Korean regime was not interested in any negotiations, as evidenced by the Joe Biden administration’s unsuccessful attempts to reach out and initiate dialogue.

Currently, the North Korean nuclear issue is not high on the agenda of the Biden administration’s foreign policy because it is now preoccupied with the Ukraine-Russia war and fierce economic competition with China. This paves the way for Pyongyang to test-fire its ballistic missiles, which is in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions banning the country from testing ballistic missile technologies.

“North Korea sees an opportunity there to carry out these tests because they know the Chinese and the Russians are not going to support U.N. Security Council resolutions as they have in the past,” he said.

“I think, for the North Koreans, they see opportunity whenever U.S.-China and U.S.-Russia relations are not going well. They see opportunity in drawing closer to China and Russia. When relations are better between the United States and China, they constantly fear abandonment. They constantly fear that the United States and China ― the two big powers ― are going to cut a deal that sells North Korea down the river.”

Source : KoreaTimes