North Korea may stop launching missiles for the winter

North Korea hasn’t fired a missile for 60 days, but that may have more to do with its own winter training cycle than with Pyongyang easing off on provocations.

Since Kim Jong Un took power in late 2011, only five of the isolated nation’s 85 rocket launches have taken place in the October-December quarter, according to The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies’ North Korea Missile Test Database.

The Korean People’s Army regularly enters its training cycle every winter “and getting ready for it involves a calm before the storm,” said Van Jackson, a strategy fellow at the Center for Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington.

“Fall is the harvest season, and a lot of military labor is dedicated to agricultural output when not in war mode; inefficient, but it’s the nature of the North Korean system,” said Jackson, a former U.S. Department of Defense adviser. “It’s a routine, recurring pattern, which means we should expect a surge in provocations in the early months next year.”

North Korea's Hwasong-14 missile. Photo from KCNA

North Korea’s Hwasong-14 missile. (Photo from KCNA)

North Korea’s last launch was on Sept. 15, when the isolated state fired its second missile over Japan in as many months. That missile flew far enough to put the U.S. territory of Guam in range.

Joseph Yun, the United States’ top North Korean official, was reported by The Washington Post as saying on Oct. 30 that if the regime halted nuclear and missile testing for about 60 days, it would be the signal Washington needs to resume direct dialogue with Pyongyang. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Nov. 10 denied the U.S. had any such window.

Related: South Korean troops on DMZ are ready for anything

Yun arrived in South Korea on Nov. 14, a visit that comes as hopes rise for an easing of tensions on the peninsula in the wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s visit and a lull in missile testing.

Yun, the U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, will meet with South Korean and international officials, according to the U.S. State Department, although there is no indication his visit will include talks with the North.

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said Yun is scheduled for talks with his South Korean counterpart, Lee Do-hoon, on Nov. 17 on the sidelines of an international conference on disarmament, jointly hosted by the ministry and the United Nations on the resort island of Jeju.

Jeju Island. NASA photo by Robert Simmon.

Jeju Island. (NASA photo by Robert Simmon.)

South Korea-born Yun has been at the heart of reported direct diplomacy in recent months with the Kim regime.

Using the so-called New York channel, he has been in contact with diplomats at Pyongyang’s United Nations mission, a senior State Department official said earlier this month.

Even as Trump called talks a waste of time, Yun has quietly tried to lower the temperature in a dangerous nuclear standoff in which each side shows little interest in compromise.

Photo from White House Flickr.

Photo from White House Flickr.

In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations on Oct. 30, Yun reportedly said that if the North halts nuclear and missile tests for about 60 days, it would be a sign that Washington needs to seek a restart of dialogue with Pyongyang.

Some analysts say it is too early to read much into the break in testing, which is the longest lull so far this year.

And there is no sign that the behind-the-scenes communications have improved a relationship vexed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests as well as Trump’s heated statements.

South Korea’s Gen. Sun Jin Lee, Republic of Korea Army chairman and joint chiefs of staff visits Guam's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, site Nov. 1, 2016, along with Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the combined US forces in South Korea. USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel.

South Korea’s Gen. Sun Jin Lee, Republic of Korea Army chairman and joint chiefs of staff visits Guam’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD, site Nov. 1, 2016, along with Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the combined US forces in South Korea. (USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Alexander W. Riedel.)

During his visit to Seoul last week, Trump warned North Korea he was prepared to use the full range of U.S. military power to stop any attack, but in a more conciliatory appeal than ever before he urged Pyongyang to “make a deal” to end the nuclear standoff.

Trump also urged North Korea to “do the right thing” and added that: “I do see some movement,” though he declined to elaborate.

While his comments seemed to reassure many in South Korea, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry called Trump a “destroyer of the world peace and stability,” and said his “reckless remarks” only made the regime more committed to building up its nuclear force.

Trump muddied the water later on his Asia visit by Tweeting that North Korean leader Kim had insulted him by calling him “old” and said he would never call Kim “short and fat.”

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit South Korea, November 7, 2017 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit South Korea, November 7, 2017 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

He also said “it would be very, very nice” if he and Kim became friends.

“It is indeed noteworthy that the president, at several junctures, seemed to open the door to negotiations with North Korea,” said David Pressman, a partner at the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner who helped lead North Korea sanctions negotiations as ambassador to the United Nations under former President Barack Obama.

“However, it is entirely unclear if the president’s suggestions are reflective of a strategic shift or merely reflective of what the last person he happened to speak with about North Korea said before the president made those comments.”

TOP ARTICLES
Why the Growler is the king of electronic warfare

The mission of the Boeing EA-18G Growler is to use jammers or HARMs to put the enemy's "eyes" out of commission and give allies an airborne advantage.

4 dangers medics face while deployed in combat

Medics are commonly targeted on the battlefield by enemies to take them out of the fight. Without the "Docs" around, the patrol can't correctly function.

5 reasons you should have enlisted as a 'Fister'

Maybe you're picking your MOS based off what you can get. Maybe you're choosing by cool points. When it comes to cool points, one MOS reigns: Fister.

This veteran's Korean-inspired hot sauce will blow your mind

Gochujang is going to be the flavor of 2018. Leave it to an Army Ranger to lead the way in creating one of the tastiest takes on the Korean sauce.

How a good carrier landing can go bad in a hurry

The most stressful time for a naval aviator isn't when he is being shot at by enemy aircraft, it's when he's trying to land on a carrier.

8 Christmas gift ideas for the Air Force

The United States Air Force takes on one of the most important Christmas missions of all - tracking Santa. So they deserve a lot of Christmas loot.

A box of gear from Alpha Outpost for the tactical vet in your life

CEO Daniel Alarik has made the domination of crowded fields into an art form. His latest venture, a tactical subscription box company, is the Mona Lisa.

How a Christmas-gift-to-be turned into a booming vet-owned business

Looking for the perfect gift for the salty veteran in your life and fast running out of ideas? Put those 72 koozies down and check out Medals of America.

This wounded warrior is turning steel into gold in Alabama

Colin Wayne went from an Army National Guardsman to a fitness model to...a steel worker? Wayne’s company, Redline Steel, creates art from steel.

3 leadership lessons that will take you from the battlefield to the boardroom

Col. Ted Studdard never imagined he'd have a 25-year career in the Marines, but he's got some pro tips to share now that he's a bonafide "mustang."