The U.S.-led air strike on Syria may put pressure on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ahead of his planned summit with President Donald Trump in May or June.
In a joint operation with the U.K. and France, the three countries air forces’ launched 105 cruise missiles at Syrian chemical weapons facilities after Trump mulled military options in response to an alleged poison gas attack.
The measure came as Trump’s new team of hawkish security advisers, who engineered the Syria strike, remain skeptical about Kim’s true intentions behind the summit, and insist they will use military options against North Korea if necessary.
CIA Director and Secretary of State Nominee Mike Pomeo warned that he could not rule out a military strike or even a ground invasion against North Korea, while National Security Adviser John Bolton said North Korea was “just buying time” to build nuclear-tipped missiles.
In this climate, Pyongyang is believed to be watching the Syrian crisis closely, according to analysts, Sunday.
They said Kim was also believed to be concerned about a U.S. strike on the North if preparations for the summit and denuclearization talks go wrong.
“The air strikes of course did not directly involve North Korea. But it showed Trump is not bluffing when it comes to military options against countries previously labeled by the U.S as an axis of evil,” said Kim Korea National Diplomatic Academy professor Kim Hyun-wook.
National security strategy senior researcher Cho Sung-ryul said Saturday’s attack should be seen as a warning to North Korea if the summit ends unsuccessfully. “The U.S. made clear that it will continue to keep all options on the table even if Kim and Trump draw out an agreement on denuclearization,” Cho said. “It will certainly be a worry for North Korea.”
Koh You-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University, said the Syria strike might put the North in a dilemma about whether to follow the “Libya model” of giving up its nuclear program in return for rapprochement with the U.S.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi _ later killed after his regime was toppled _ ended his nuclear weapons program in 2003 to normalize relations with the U.S. Bolton and other U.S. hawks have been demanding that North Korea look to the “Libya model” for denuclearization.
“Kim may have second thoughts about giving up the North’s nuclear program considering he could possibly be killed either by the U.S. or his people if he agrees to accept the Libya model,” Koh said. “He may even decide to continue the nuclear program.” Meanwhile, North Korea did not react to the strike, Sunday, and celebrated the anniversary of the birth of its founding leader Kim Il-sung.—Agencies