When the North Korean news service KCNA reported early on the morning of November 16 that Kim Jong Un had visited the test ground of the Academy of Defense Science to supervise the test of a “newly developed ultramodern tactical weapon,” I had the pleasure of watching Twitter explode with learned commentary tumbling over itself to explain what this event meant. To be sure, my initial reaction had been, like others, that this was Kim’s way of reminding the US that he was going to continue to improve his military capabilities even as talks with Washington continued. In the worst case, it might even be an additional sign that he was edging further in the direction of recent warnings in North Korean media, that a return to the “byungjin” line (dual development of a nuclear deterrent and the economy) could be under discussion in the leadership.
But then, I took a deep breath. Years as an analyst had taught me to fight off the impulse to race to judgment, and to wait a bit to see what else might emerge. And, indeed, something else did.
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