In an interview with Voice of America News, Katy Oh explains why she believes North Korea will stage a response to South Korea’s artillery drills.
KATY OH: I think this is a classic North Korean game. When there is an expectation of some kind of retaliatiion and counter attacks, North Korea remains silent. But, when the United States and South Korea are relaxed, perhaps over the national holidays then North Korea could launch a surprise attack, which is a recurring tactic of the North Korean regime.
VOA NEWS: So, you do expect a retaliation and quite soon?
OH: Whether it is a retaliation or a new provocation, they will not be sitting quiet for long. They will continue to seem to be doing so, but they will use the best mix of surprise and shock.
VOA NEWS: Could diplomacy prevent North Korea from going ahead with retaliation or with another provocation?
OH: Basically, my answer is ‘no’, because in a sense that the United States, South Korea, Japan, Russia and China urge North Korea to return to the six-party talks, we always send them a signal, ‘look, we’re really seriously ready to sit down with you’. As long as we wanted to talk about this real substantial issue, North Korea always walked away. They would like to control the situation with their own agenda while keeping their nuclear option open. In that case, the United States and South Korea will not talk to them. But, it does not mean we gave up on diplomacy. I think North Korea has its own agenda and they will use a combination of diplomacy and provocation to reach their own goals. North Korea is a regime that needs an external crisis, for two reasons: to have social control and to continue the legitimacy of the regime that is not really legitimate in terms of delivering welfare and economic benefit for the population. So, with that mindset, I think there will be a provocation in the near future. I think that other countries, particularly the United States, South Korea and Japan should be fully alert and possibly use assymetrical warfare to deal with this unpredictable nemisis…this country.
I think probably that the lesson that [Kim Jong Un is] learning is that he doesn’t have to give up anything and yet people will be scrambling for summits with him. ... The longer we have these drawn-out talks, these summits, bilaterals, trilaterals, quadrilaterals, the more it buys time for them to reinforce their claimed status [as a nuclear power] but also to continue with their R&D. But I do think that there is an element of trying to mitigate the sanctions, and also Kim took all those discussions about military strikes seriously enough to try and take the wind out of the sails. ... I find it difficult to envision how or why he would give up his nuclear weapons, which have pretty much given him what he’s wanted: which is the strategic relevance, the international prestige, and deterrence.
[Regarding President Trump's shift from enthusiasm to uncertainty over the U.S.-North Korea summit] In effect, President Trump is getting a mini-lesson in talking to the North Koreans even before he talks to the North Koreans.
[Kim Jong Un] did not engage diplomatically at all in those first seven years [as the leader of North Korea], probably because he didn’t want to hear the Chinese nagging him about advancing these weapons. And also he wasn’t going to start bargaining or negotiating them away. ... Kim has done a pivot where he’s doing a maximum engagement.