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University of Notre Dame

Radio Silence From White House and UN Security Council After N. Korean Missile Launches

12-Aug-2019 3:55 PM EDT, by University of Notre Dame

University of Notre Dame's George A. Lopez, an expert in peace studies, focusing on economic sanctions and nuclear activity in North Korea, can comment on the lack of reaction from the White House and UN Security Council following the North Korean missile launches last week. Please see his initial comments below. Notre Dame has an on-campus studio so radio and TV interviews can be arranged quickly. He can be reached directly at lopez.1@nd.edu.

"We are at a critical shifting point but the North Korean launches are only part of the story - one might say the aggressive symptom but not the full blown ailment. At the symptomatic level, if the US - and let's add regional and international - aims regarding DPRK had been advanced by the hiatus in Kim's testing program [and this was pointed out as his diplomatic success by Pres. Trump], then this 'gain' has been consciously reversed by the North. Why? 

I see three reasons, which represent the full-blown ailment. First, the resumption of the joint ROK-US exercises is infuriating Kim; he had Trump shutting this down voluntarily as an act of good will. He was or might have been convinced that the DMZ meeting in June so underscored the latter that he did not need any concession on his part to ensure the exercises would be put on hold. At the least he was probably counting on the resumption of talks with the US in July would provide opportunity to push on the hiatus.

This leads to the second reason - the US appears to be the group that dragged its feet on pushing ahead with those promised talks. The president and Pompeo's attention in foreign affairs has been on Iran and, overall, the president himself has lost focus on DPRK. In response, the DPRK decided not to show up for the ASEAN meeting and thus not for the scheduled side discussion there with Pompeo. I thought it very odd that the Trump Administration made no real mention of this, thus indicating that a) they don't really care; or b) they have no real strategy and pattern of dialogue with the North to hold them accountable

However, this is a big deal - especially as the next comments from the North are the launches followed by a harsh foreign ministry statement.

Finally, the North is upset that Seoul has not pushed further with economic cooperation to build from past momentum. From ROK's perspective that should come only after some concessions and cooperation by Kim - who now seems to see the ROK-US relationship, as evidenced by the resumption of exercises, as again hostile.

My personal biggest concern is that these tests are a violation of the UNSC resolutions and there has been no condemnation of them in the Council or elsewhere by the US. Kim is claiming the US has violated agreements made in Singapore and in light of hostile exercises his missile launches are for self-defense. But, there is no discussion of these actions or competing claims at the Council level. This sets back a decade of US-UN cooperation on constraining DPRK actions.

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