North Korea could ramp up missile tests under Biden sparking winter ‘Washington showdown’

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The North Korean leader is believed to have preferred a Donald Trump victory for the US election. Mr Trump was the first sitting US president to meet Kim Jong-un and their relationship is rare among American leaders.

Harry Kazianis, senior director at the Center for the National Interest, told that Mr Kim would have voted for President Trump if he had the chance.

He said: “If Kim Jong-un could have voted for Donald Trump there is no doubt in my mind he would have not only done so but went to the polling station with a MAGA t-shirt and flag.

“Trump most likely would have tried to cut a deal with North Korea quickly after inauguration day as a means to take away an important means by which China could undermine the US position in Asia.

“Trump and Kim were closer to a deal in Hanoi than many realise, and that deal could have been enhanced on both sides to be made viable. Sadly, this is history we will never see play out.”

The Hanoi Summit saw Mr Kim and President Trump come together in Vietnam for their second face-to-face meeting.

But President-elect Biden’s approach to North Korea is expected to be a lot different to his predecessor’s style.

During the last presidential debate, Mr Biden labelled Mr Kim a “thug” and has previously criticised the North Korean leader.

Whereas Mr Trump has boasted about the relationship he has formed with Mr Kim and their “love letters”.

In the same debate, President Trump said: “North Korea? We’re not in a war. We have a good relationship. People don’t understand—having a good relationship with leaders of other countries is a good thing.”

Mr Kazianis added: “Joe Biden will surely not approach the Kim regime in the same way Donald Trump did, meaning the days of flowery summits and polite prose in the form of pen-pal style letters are surely over.”

As the coronavirus pandemic looms over the US, Mr Biden may not attempt to do anything on North Korea until the spring according to Mr Kazianis.

But he warned that this could push North Korea to start testing missiles “potentially sparking another showdown with Washington”.

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He added: “The good news is that Kim would likely hold any tests until he gets some sort of sense of Biden’s policy direction on North Korea, but if nothing is forthcoming by late winter, he won’t wait forever and start ramping up tensions.

“He would, by say March, slowly start testing missiles, as he does nearly at the end of every winter and into the Spring, as a way to judge Team Biden’s response, but also China’s response, considering North Korea is entirely dependent on China.

“As we go deeper into the Spring, if Kim sees no hope in a new relationship with the US in terms of sanctions relief or a path that is of benefit to him, he will be tempted to test an ICBM or nuclear weapon—and he just might do it.”

In October, Mr Kim revealed a new intercontinental ballistic missile believed to be capable of striking long-range targets including the US mainland.

Until a test of the missile is carried out, it is unclear what its exact range will be.

But the unveiling proved to be a stark warning that North Korea’s weapons technology is advancing.

Last year, North Korea’s state-run media labelled Mr Biden a “rabid dog” who “must be beaten to death with a stick” in a brutal blast at the former vice president.

Mr Kazianis explained that Mr Biden is unlikely to continue President Trump’s personal approach to Mr Kim.

He added: “If Biden thinks outside of the box, he should find a proxy close to Kim, someone he trusts, this way, Biden knows he is dealing with someone in more classic working-level talks that can make decisions for Kim.

“And that means Biden should invite Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, to Washington for talks after inauguration day.”

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