Mintaro Oba, a former State Department official who worked on North Korean affairs, told me there are two main reasons Kim would want his regime to make such a provocative statement.
First, North Korea wants to put the blame for the failure in Vietnam at America’s feet. That makes Kim look better and could signal to his allies, mainly China, that he was willing to negotiate until the US made such a hardline demand.
“By floating a threat in a negative but circumspect way, North Korea is both testing the reaction to this type of messaging and putting pressure on Washington,” Oba said.
And second, there are North Korean officials who are skeptical of holding diplomatic talks with the United States. While Kim commands much power in his country, he still faces some domestic political challenges. “It’s possible that because of what happened in Hanoi ... hardliners in Pyongyang are feeling empowered and Kim is in a position where he has to demonstrate strength,” Oba added.