The Shukan Bunshun recently interviewed Chang Jong Chol (alias), a senior member of the Workers Party of Korea who is well versed in North Korea’s military situation. He stressed that North Korea is developing long-range missiles only to protect itself from the U.S., which is stepping up economic sanctions and applying greater pressure on the regime.
We have approached him several times before. In the interview that we held in early August, he made the following prediction.
“What we can get from lofted-trajectory experiments are numerical results in theory. We need to test fire a missile that can fly over the Japanese archipelago. And if we can present the numerical results that we get from that test to the rest of the world, there will be no room for the U.S. and other countries to challenge our technology.”
Right after this interview, on Aug. 29, North Korea fired a “Hwasong-12” medium-range ballistic missile toward Hokkaido and carried out the missile test over the Japanese archipelago. On Sept. 25, it also fired a ballistic missile toward Hokkaido, which travelled about 3,700 km, to demonstrate that Guam is within range.
But the North has refrained from any missile test since then. What does this silence mean?
We met with Chang at a Japanese restaurant in Beijing, China. He was tight lipped at the beginning, but gradually responded to our questions. “The U.S. wishes for our demise,” he said. “That is their dream. That’s why they are using militaristic and psychological approaches to press us. And now we are being forced into grinding poverty and don’t have enough to eat.”
This suggests that the economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations are proving effective. In China, North Korean workers are being deported to Pyongyang and the regime’s economic activities are restricted. But why does the North continue nuclear development under such circumstances?
“Nuclear development is the instruction of our Great Leader (Kim Jong Sung),” Chang answered. “Our aim is to meet the U.S. threat, and for this, we must fully deploy nuclear missiles.”
When we asked about the North Korean issue that U.S. President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed during their recent summit, Chang noted: “I heard that Trump said ‘North Korea is a bad country and must be made a normal nation through attacks when he met Abe for the first time. Abe is glued to Trump. As long as Japan follows the U.S., a Japan-DPRK summit will not be realized.”
He did not give us a clear answer as to why North Korea has remains been quiet since September. This time, throughout the interview, he made no predictions. This suggests that the North is growing increasingly jittery about the current situation.
North Korea wanted to use its military development as a tool to get the U.S. to sit at the negotiating table, but this scenario was derailed as President Trump plays harder than the regime anticipated. “North Korea sees President Trump as a ‘person of unpredictability,’” an expert on North Korea affairs said. “It is having a hard time not having a channel of dialogue [with the U.S]. After President Trump’s U.N. speech, the regime has refrained from carrying out missile tests, which could provoke the U.S. The North is definitely keeping a close eye on how President Trump will act.”
During the first North Korean nuclear crisis of 1994, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter visited the North to avert war at the last minute. In the interview, by a curious coincidence, Chang referred to the “1994” crisis and said: “In 1994, Pyongyang people went to bed with their shoes on (to be prepared for war at any time). Today, our soldiers sleep with their shoes on and guns fully loaded so they can fire at any time. This is the instruction from our staff headquarters.”
“The U.S. should know what will happen if they attack the North, which possess nuclear weapons,” he went on. “Nonetheless, if the U.S. wants to fight us, we will accept the challenge.”
When we told him that some experts anticipate that Japan may come under attack, he stressed “there is no need to spare time to attack peaceful Tokyo.” He continued: “Modern war does not involve attacks against citizens but targets strategic facilities and military bases. We will attack Kadena, Guam and other U.S. military bases, from which the U.S will attack us. Our message of mounting enveloping fire on Guam means that in the event of a contingency on the Korean Peninsula, we will make sure that U.S. fighter jets and vessels will not be able to leave Guam.”
On the possibility of waging war with the U.S., his answer was as follows: “First of all, we won’t start a war. Now we have nuclear weapons and possess strong strike capabilities through missile development. Because we have nuclear weapons, the U.S. wants to attack us. The U.S. has long stressed the need to wipe the communist regime of North Korea from the face of the earth. If the U.S. comes, we cannot let ourselves die for nothing. We are ready to go to war.” (Abridged)