March 22, 2018 12:56
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has retreated into silence after signaling his willingness to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump to a South Korean envoy early this month.
The state media have also had little to say about what could potentially be two momentous events. One diplomatic source said, "Kim Jong-un is probably monitoring the behavior of the U.S. and moves by other countries as he calculates his next move."
Kim dispatched his Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho to Sweden and Choe Kang-il, a deputy director general for North American affairs at North Korea's Foreign Ministry, to Finland, apparently to gauge the true intentions of the U.S. government.
Some believe Kim and his top officials may be trying to come up with some way of selling the need to scrap the regime's nuclear weapons to the North Korean public, who have been fed relentless propaganda that it is necessary.
A government official here said, "There are several areas in Kim Jong-un's pledge to the South Korean envoys that clash with propaganda doctrine."
Others believe Kim may still be fearful of a preemptive U.S. strike and has gone to ground. One former high-ranking intelligence official said, "Kim Jong-un extended an olive branch early this year because he wants to use South Korea as a shield to protect North Korea against a 'bloody nose strike' from the U.S. But he may be afraid of going the way of Iraq's Saddam Hussein as the U.S continues to stress maximum sanctions even after accepting an offer of a summit."
Nirj Deva, a member of the European Parliament in charge of Korean affairs, said in an interview with Deutsche Welle on Tuesday that North Korean officials pointed out the fates of the former leaders of Libya and Iraq whenever he raised the subject of denuclearization.
Deva held 14 closed-door talks with North Korea over the last three years.
North Korea's fears are reflected in Kim's official activities. He has made only 11 public appearances so far this year, a third of those seen in previous years. And all of those appearances were in Pyongyang. Its foreign minister even sent a letter to the UN secretary-general in January asking him to tell the U.S. to stop its war footing.
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