President Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam was a major disappointment. Overshadowed in part by conflict between India and Pakistan, Trump came away from the summit with no progress made towards resolving the situation on the Korean peninsula. And with the breakdown of the talks there has now been some speculation that North Korea may be resuming nuclear testing.
That speculation is fueled in part by a recent underground explosion in North Korea. The explosion, which registered a 2.1 on the Richter scale, was deemed to have been man-made. It apparently took place within an abandoned coal mine some distance from the site of North Korea’s previous underground nuclear testing and the size of this explosion resulted in a much smaller earthquake than the previous nuclear tests. So has North Korea resumed nuclear testing?
It’s not inconceivable that this was a new nuclear test, particularly since the previous North Korean nuclear testing site was destroyed. It could also be that a smaller nuclear warhead was tested. Or it could be completely unrelated. We don’t really know.
North Korea seemed serious about trying to make progress in shutting down its nuclear weapons program, but Kim wanted sanctions against North Korea to be removed first. President Trump wasn’t willing to do that, preferring that sanctions be lifted after North Korea moves to end its nuclear program. If North Korea has resumed nuclear testing then that could be a move to try to force the US back to the negotiating table, putting pressure on Trump to end sanctions in exchange for North Korea finally ending its nuclear testing.
Hopefully this situation will end up being resolved peacefully. Trump has certainly made far more inroads in negotiating with North Korea than previous Presidents have, as he has been the only President willing to actually sit down and negotiate. But negotiations always require a quid pro quo. If Trump or his advisers are unwilling to make any concessions at all then the nearly 70-year-old crisis on the Korean peninsula may continue to drag on indefinitely.