SEOUL – With an unusually high-stakes United States presidential election imminent, risks look set to soar not only on restive US streets, but also around the flashpoint Korean peninsula.
And it may not only be risks that are soaring – it could be missiles, too.
That would mark a turnaround from the last three years. After North Korea engaged directly with a sitting US president for the first time in 2018, a relative quiet has prevailed in Pyongyang-Washington relations.
Of course, it has been a troubled “quiet.”
A hugely anticipated 2019 North Korea-US summit in Hanoi imploded and subsequent working-level talks froze solid. This year, Pyongyang unleashed multiple test barrages of short- and medium-range missiles, while rhetorical barrages aimed at US officials have spun off state media printing presses.
However, there have been no major physical provocations aimed at the US.
Instead, in a sign of good faith and possibly of his personal investment in an engagement strategy with US President Donald Trump, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has stuck to his self-applied moratorium on intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and nuclear tests.