What does North Korea’s Kim Jong-un hope to achieve with missile tests and threats?

Kim Jong-un has a long list of demands of the international community but the ultimate aim remains the crowning glory that his father and grandfather were never able to achieve: Reunification of the Korean Peninsula under North Korea‘s ideological philosophy.

Kim Il-sung attempted a land grab in 1950 that would have given him control of the southern half of the peninsula but his troops were denied by United Nations forces after a three-year conflict. 

Children in the North are still taught that the “Fatherland Liberation War” was started by the South and ended in a resounding victory for Pyongyang, but the failure of the offensive still rankles with the latest member of the Kim clan to inherit the leadership of the isolated republic.

Inside North Korea

And Mr Kim’s increasing belligerence – in the last week he has fired a ballistic missile over Japan and carried out a sixth underground nuclear test – suggests that the young dictator believes the time has come to settle old scores.

For many years, North Korea’s primary ambition has been to ensure regime survival, said Daniel Pinkston, a professor of international relations at the Seoul campus of Troy University.

The deployment of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles with at least a degree of proven capabilities goes a long way to achieving that and enables Pyongyang to make more demands.

“They want to be recognised as a peer nuclear power and to have the level of respect and prestige that they believe is commensurate with that”, Mr Pinkston told The Telegraph. “They also want the sanctions regime to be lifted.”

“Beyond that, they want to rewrite the current security architecture in the region, including Washington’s alliances in the region, and eventually to remove the US military presence from north-east Asia”, he said. “North Korea wants to replace those alliances with a situation in which it would be every nation for itself and all difference would be settled by individual states’ military power.

Nuclear North Korea

“But, ultimately, North Korea wants the peninsula to be unified on Pyongyang’s terms and for it to be recognised as the sole legitimate Korean state”, Pinkston said.

Stephen Nagy, a senior associate professor of international relations at Tokyo’s International Christian University, says Pyongyang also craves recognition by Washington and is attempting to force the US to the negotiating table for a peace treaty that would replace the armistice that was signed at the conclusion of…

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