Summary

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un presided over the testing of a ‘newly developed hi-tech tactical weapon’ on Friday. Little is known about the weapon being tested, but it appears that it wasn’t a new missile or nuclear platform.

Like everything in the DPRK’s state-controlled media, there was a subtext here intended for some target audience. This time the message was for the Trump administration: grant new concessions or risk a return to the brinkmanship of last year.

The message appears to have been received. Today, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the United States would be dropping its demand of a list of North Korean nuclear and missile sites ahead of a second summit scheduled for early next year.

The writing had always been on the wall that the Trump administration was investing too much of its own political and diplomatic capital in a process that was almost certain to fail. But only now are we seeing this dynamic start to play out at the negotiating table in a way that is, unsurprisingly, highly favorable for the North Koreans.