Archive for the ‘North Korean missile over Japan’ category

Will There Ever be an Accounting on North Korea?

November 29, 2017

Will There Ever be an Accounting on North Korea? Power Line,  John Hinderaker, November 28, 2017

(Someday perhaps, but first we need to deal with matters of real importance — who grabbed whose what, when, where and why? Will he, she or an entity who/which self-identifies as a cow be punished or will Antifa members and other social justice warriors prevail?

Here’s one of my favorite poems by Robert Burns. It has nothing to do with North Korea, its missiles or nukes. Instead, it focuses on matters of apparently more substantial contemporary importance.

Address to the Unco Guid,
Or the Rigidly Righteous.

My son, these maxims make a rule,
An’ lump them ay thegither:
The Rigid Righteous is a fool,
The Rigid Wise anither;
The cleanest corn that e’er was dight
May hae some pyles o’ caff in;
So ne’er a fellow-creature slight
For random fits o’ daffin.
Solomon. (Ecclesiastes vii. 16)
1.
O ye, wha are sae guid yoursel,
Sae pious and sae holy,
Ye’ve nought to do but mark and tell
Your neebours’ fauts and folly,
Whase life is like a weel-gaun mill,
Supplied wi’ store o’ water,
The heapet happer’s ebbing still,
An’ still the clap plays clatter!
2.
Hear me, ye venerable core,
As counsel for poor mortals
That frequent pass douce Wisdom’s door
For glaikit Folly’s portals:
I for their thoughtless, careless sakes
Would here propone defences —
Their donsie tricks, their black mistakes,
Their failings and mischances.
3.
Ye see your state wi’ theirs compared,
And shudder at the niffer;
But cast a moment’s fair regard,
What makes the mighty differ?
Discount what scant occasion gave;
That purity ye pride in;
And (what’s aft mair than a’ the lave)
Your better art o’ hidin.
4.
Think, when your castigated pulse
Gies now and then a wallop,
What ragings must his veins convulse,
That still eternal gallop!
Wi’ wind and tide fair i’ your tail,
Right on ye scud your sea-way;
But in the teeth o’ baith to sail,
It makes an unco lee-way.
5.
See Social-life and Glee sit down
All joyous and unthinking,
Till, quite transmugrify’d, they’re grown
Debauchery and Drinking:
O, would they stay to calculate,
Th’ eternal consequences,
Or – your more dreaded hell to state –
Damnation of expenses!
6.
Ye high, exalted, virtuous dames,
Tied up in godly laces,
Before ye gie poor Frailty names,
Suppose a change o’ cases:
A dear-lov’d lad, convenience snug,
A treach’rous inclination–
But, let me whisper i’ your lug,
Ye’re aiblins nae temptation.
7.
Then gently scan your brother man,
Still gentler sister woman;
Tho’ they may gang a kennin wrang,
To step aside is human:
One point must still be greatly dark,
The moving why they do it;
And just as lamely can ye mark
How far perhaps they rue it.
8.
Who made the heart, ’tis He alone
Decidedly can try us:
He knows each chord, its various tone,
Each spring, its various bias:
Then at the balance let’s be mute,
We never can adjust it;
What’s done we partly may compute,
But know not what’s resisted.

— DM)

Today North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile that stayed airborne for close to an hour and flew farther than any previously tested by that country. Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters that the Kim regime now has the ability to hit “everywhere in the world basically.” And, of course, the regime has nuclear weapons.

Further:

The US believes Pyongyang may be able to put a miniaturized warhead on a missile sometime in 2018 — giving it the theoretical capability to launch a missile with a warhead atop that could attack the US.

President Trump inherited the North Korea mess. He told reporters today that North Korea “is a situation that we will handle.” I sincerely hope so, but I have no idea how. Is there any practical way to threaten Kim’s nuclear capability without endangering the 10 million people who live in Seoul, just 35 miles from the border with North Korea? Again, I have no idea.

The North Korea problem has been brewing for a long time. In 1994, the Clinton administration agreed to provide two nuclear reactors and deliver heavy fuel oil to North Korea in exchange for the country giving up its nuclear weapons program. The reactors were never built, but Kim nevertheless snookered Clinton, as North Korea accelerated rather than giving up its nuclear program.

Subsequently, American administrations have kicked the Korean can down the road. Most blameworthy was Barack Obama. Just a few months into Obama’s administration, the North Koreans detonated a series of nuclear devices. President Obama responded with a policy of “strategic patience,” a euphemism for doing nothing and hoping that disaster wouldn’t strike until he was out of office. This was classic Obama: as the increasingly insane North Korean regime drew ever closer to an offensive nuclear capability, he did nothing. Now President Trump is stuck holding the bag.

Millions of lives could be lost because of this feckless history. Meanwhile, our news media have mostly ignored the North Korea issue, preferring to obsess on Roy Moore’s purported 40-year-old failings, whether Press Secretary Sarah Sanders baked a Thanksgiving pie, Al Franken’s tortured meditations on how easy it is to grasp a woman’s bottom by accident, and so on. Will our inept reporters and editors ever bestir themselves to report on how Barack Obama and, to a lesser extent, his predecessors allowed the Kim regime to become such a threat to millions of human lives?

That’s a rhetorical question, of course. They certainly won’t do so if it would reflect badly on their party. Which it would. So don’t hold your breath, and pray that President Trump and his aides will find a way out of the mess that his predecessors helped to create.

UNSCR 2375: What Just Happened Here?

September 16, 2017

UNSCR 2375: What Just Happened Here? 38 North, September 15, 2017

(This is about the watered-down UN Security Council resolution imposing more sanctions on North Korea. Essentially, the Security Council poked North Korea with a feather. North Korea’s response was probably to giggle. Please see also, H.R. McMaster: ‘There is a military option’ for North Korea and my parenthetical comment there about China — DM)

The bigger question is why the US went into this round of sanctions looking like it was ready to call China’s bluff by publicly putting forward a resolution that Beijing would have to veto. It appeared that Washington may have chosen to use the draft resolution as a way to justify applying secondary sanctions widely once the Chinese and/or Russians vetoed the draft. Instead, the US opted (wisely in this author’s view) to maintain Council and P-5 unity. But in terms of public perception, it now it appears to have blinked in the face of Chinese obstruction. It would be interesting to know what arrangements were made between the two capitals and whether this is an indicator of quiet Chinese action that will increase pressure on Pyongyang out of public view. There are reports, which this author cannot confirm, that several large state owned Chinese banks are winding up their North Korean operations. If it is not the case that more US-Chinese cooperation is going on behind the scenes, this author is left to wonder why the US put so much on the table publicly only to walk away with so little.

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On Monday evening, the United Nations Security Council quickly and unanimously passed another sanctions resolution against North Korea in a rapid response to its sixth—and strongest—nuclear weapons test just days earlier. In the context of past international sanctions and diplomatic actions in dealing with the North Korean nuclear and missile programs one could have applauded the rapid and unanimous action that will increase the economic price North Korea pays for its actions. After all, the resolution did not have to suffer the usual lengthy US-PRC and P-5 negotiations that have frequently delayed or even halted past UNSC responses. But, because the US released a much tougher draft and appeared to be headed towards a show down with Russia and China in the Council, outside observers are scratching their heads a bit over what was achieved and whether the US “won” or “lost” on the resolution. It looks like the US backed down, but it is possible there is more going on behind the scenes. Certainly the resolution itself is unlikely to be decisive.

For those who had hoped the US had finally gotten fed up with Chinese and Russian efforts to shield Pyongyang from regime-threatening pressure and would present them with a choice of accepting a tough resolution in New York or dealing with draconian secondary sanctions aimed at Beijing and Moscow, this resolution is bad news. For those who feared a rupture of P-5 unity, the eruption of a US-China trade war to overshadow the North Korea crisis and an end to any reasonable path to a diplomatic solution to the crisis, the resolution puts those bad outcomes off for another day. From a technical point of view, the resolution marginally ratchets up pressure on Pyongyang—although far less than the resolution’s authors would have us think.

The most interesting question—one this author is in no position to answer—is what happened between Washington and Beijing that shifted the resolution from one of confrontation to one of minor evolution in sanctions. As we look now to crafting a response to North Korea’s latest provocation—a second test flight of the Hwasong-12 over Japanese territory—it is important to know if UNSCR 2375 reflected some new understanding of a way forward shared by Washington and Beijing. If not, it is unclear what just happened here.

What Does The UNSCR Do?

The press has already reported on the key components of the resolution. These include:

  • New language on interdiction of North Korean ships (Operative Paragraphs 7-12);
  • A cap on petroleum and refined product imports to North Korea and a ban on natural gas imports (Operative Paragraphs 13-15);
  • A sun setting of all North Korean labor export arrangements and a reduction of most joint ventures (Operative Paragraphs 17-18); and
  • A ban on North Korean textile exports (Operative Paragraph 16).

It is unlikely that anything in these provisions will break the back of the North Korean regime. Indeed, while the provisions on petroleum and refined product may build a base for future action, the remaining sanctions are unlikely to do very much at all, in and of themselves, to increase pain on the DPRK.

Take, for example, the interdiction language. While the language may increase psychological pressure on that floating crap game that is the international system of providing flags of convenience to questionable shipping operators, it gives no new authority to those interested in halting illegal North Korean shipments of conventional arms, missiles, missile production equipment, or chemical weapons precursors to clients in the Middle East and Africa. The US has long believed it already had authority under international law to board and inspect vessels on the high seas if it had sound reasons to suspect they were carrying material prohibited by UN Security Council Resolutions, so long as the state flagging the vessel gave its permission. This new resolution simply restates what already exists under international law. It is a far cry from what the US proposed in its draft, which would have given member states the right to use force to board and inspect vessels suspected of carrying prohibited cargo under authority of the UN Charter. While that draft provision gave many of us pause, given the current level of tensions, it would have had the virtue of giving the US and others authority to deal with North Korea’s use of long-distance cargo ships delivering prohibited goods to a number of African and Middle Eastern clients who currently refuse to shut down their prohibited arms, missile and chemical weapons deals with Pyongyang. This resolution will not.

Similarly, the ban on textile exports looks like it will hit the DPRK hard. Trade statistics indicate North Korea earns hundreds of millions of dollars on textile exports. This, unfortunately, is likely an economic mirage. In fact, the North Korean textile trade is largely a labor export without moving the laborers. Garment manufacture is driven by one central factor: labor costs. Chinese manufacturers send production machinery, cloth and even zippers and buttons to North Korea and allow cheap, abused North Korean workers to assemble garments that are then re-exported to China. So while statistics may show hundreds of millions of dollars of textile exports, they should also show machinery and textile imports of significant value. The only real foreign exchange earnings involved for North Korea, therefore, will be the wages of the North Korean workers and the payments to their employers—far less than the hundreds of millions of dollars of paper earnings. If enforced, it is likely the textile trade with China will end as Chinese garment manufacturers find another Asian country with cheap labor to use, but the net economic impact on North Korea will be not very great.

The sun setting of true labor exports could—if it were enforceable—have a significant impact on North Korea’s foreign exchange earnings. However, it—like all foreign labor arrangements—is quite hard to enforce. One need only ask oneself how many foreign workers are harvesting crops or doing home construction in the US or working in low level service jobs in Europe to know how hard it will be to enforce this ban. (Estimates vary by millions of workers in both cases.) Moreover, the US and Europe have competent and honest customs and immigration services; the same cannot necessarily be said for Russia, China or the Middle East where most North Korean workers operate. Sadly, while this provision in the resolution may slow down the North’s earnings from the uncompensated labor of its people, it is more likely to force the business underground so that the workers may be subject to even greater abuse. At least the cost of abusing these workers will rise as their employers will likely have to make significant payoffs to various inspectors to have them look the other way when it comes to paperwork like work authorizations.

Much the same could be written about joint ventures. However, it may well be that this is one area where increased sanctions scrutiny will persuade reputable firms to look to less risky markets for investment opportunities. This is especially the case if the US is serious about ramping up its use of secondary sanctions against Chinese investors.

The headline sanction in the resolution, of course, involved oil and refined petroleum products. The provisions in the resolution fall far short of a ban on oil supply. They seek to impose a cap on petroleum and perhaps a cut in refined product imports. But the convoluted language of Operative Paragraph 14 indicates that the drafters and those they were trying to persuade had to sacrifice clarity for comity in order to get consensus language. Since no one really knows how much petroleum or refined product the DPRK is importing (estimates vary by over 20 percent between US and IEA statistics for instance), the most important result of this provision will be to require suppliers to report on their exports of refined product. (Sadly, crude shipments have no such reporting requirement so the cap on shipments of crude is really on the honor system.)  It will be interesting to see who is willing to step up and state they are in the refined product business with North Korea. Suppliers have an incentive to do so since future exports will be based on past exports. (Of course, they also have a disincentive since some oil is possibly being used as compensation for illegal North Korean exports of missiles, chemical weapons precursors or conventional arms.)

At a minimum, the sanction will thus give us greater clarity on the refined product issue. Will the caps in the resolution pinch the DPRK? It is unclear. There are some reports that the DPRK is already having difficulty importing refined product, perhaps because it cannot find financial channels with which to pay for the imports. Other experts insist the DPRK has sufficient stockpiles to ride out sanctions for the short and medium term and that it could substitute coal (of which it will have large amounts now that exports are banned) for some of its oil needs. The DPRK has shown vulnerability to heavy fuel oil shortages in the past. But, it also has shown a hard hearted willingness to let much of its population freeze in the dark if that is what it takes to keep gas in the fuel tanks of the leadership’s Mercedes. The best way to look at this provision is as a marker for possible future bans on oil supply.

Bigger Picture

The bigger question is why the US went into this round of sanctions looking like it was ready to call China’s bluff by publicly putting forward a resolution that Beijing would have to veto. It appeared that Washington may have chosen to use the draft resolution as a way to justify applying secondary sanctions widely once the Chinese and/or Russians vetoed the draft. Instead, the US opted (wisely in this author’s view) to maintain Council and P-5 unity. But in terms of public perception, it now it appears to have blinked in the face of Chinese obstruction. It would be interesting to know what arrangements were made between the two capitals and whether this is an indicator of quiet Chinese action that will increase pressure on Pyongyang out of public view. There are reports, which this author cannot confirm, that several large state owned Chinese banks are winding up their North Korean operations. If it is not the case that more US-Chinese cooperation is going on behind the scenes, this author is left to wonder why the US put so much on the table publicly only to walk away with so little.

Observers of this long-running crisis should take some heart that by maintaining Council—particularly P5—unity that there are still possibilities for US-Chinese cooperation to end this crisis diplomatically. They should be less impressed by UNSCR 2375’s potential for immediate impact.

H.R. McMaster: ‘There is a military option’ for North Korea

September 15, 2017

H.R. McMaster: ‘There is a military option’ for North Korea, Washington ExaminerJoel Gehrke , September 15, 2017

(In other news, China has said it opposes North Korea’s new missile activity and 

the essence of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue is a security issue and the crux is the disagreements between the DPRK and the United States.

“China is neither the focus of the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, nor the core to resolving the issue. Neither is it the propellent of the current tensions,” she said, urging parties directly concerned to take up their due responsibilities.

Translation: It’s your problem; deal with it as you want but don’t do anything we won’t like. — DM)

President Trump’s top national security aide said Friday that there is a military option for handling North Korea’s missile and nuclear testing, even though it’s an option the Trump administration does not want to employ.

“There is a military option,” White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said at the White House. “Now, it’s not what we would prefer to do. So, what we have to do is call on all nations, call on everyone to do everything we can to address this global problem short of war. So, that is implementing now these significant sanctions that have just now gone into place. And it is convincing everyone to do everything that they can — and that it’s in their interest to do it.”

But McMaster acknowledged that the clock is ticking with each provocative test North Korea runs.

“We’re out of time,” McMaster said. “We’ve been kicking the can down the road, and we’re out of road.”

McMaster was joined at the White House by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, who agreed that the UN is running out of options when it comes to imposing new economic sanctions.

“There’s not a whole lot the Security Council is going to be able to do from here,” Haley said.

Haley’s comments suggest that she won’t revive an attempt to push an oil embargo through the U.N. Security Council, after China and Russia opposed the measure last week. Instead, she argued that the resolution which passed instead of the more-stringent embargo would be a strong deterrent to the regime if it is implemented effectively.

“If you look at the resolutions that have passed over the last month, the two of them, they cut 30 percent of their oil, they banned all the laborers, they based 90 percent of the exports, they banned joint ventures,” Haley said. “in the words of North Korea, we’ve strangled their economic situation at this point.”

McMaster said the sanctions will take time to have a maximum affect, but North Korea’s decision to launch yet another ballistic missile over Japan put renewed urgency in his public message. That’s an apparent warning to Russia and China, both of which oppose additional U.S. military buildups in the Asia-Pacific region.

Their comments came one day after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called on China to implement the oil embargo unilaterally.

“China supplies essentially all of North Korea’s oil,” Tillerson told reporters in London. “I am hopeful that China — as a great country, a world power — will decide on their own and will take it upon themselves to use that very powerful tool of oil supply to persuade North Korea to reconsider its current path towards weapons development, to reconsider its approach to dialogue and negotiations in the future.”

Second North Korean missile over Japan

September 15, 2017

Second North Korean missile over Japan, DEBKAfile, September 15, 2017

The Trump administration’s response did not indicate that any action was afoot. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke of a reckless action that put millions of Japanese in duck and cover mode, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson again called on China and Russia to restrain Pyongyang.

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For the second time in a month, North Korea fired a ballistic missile over northern Japan early on Friday, Sept. 15. This one was launched from a point near the country’s main international airport in the district of Sunan, where the North Korean capital of Pyongyang is also located. It reached an altitude of 770km, flying about 3,700km before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean and exploding.

On Sept. 3, North Korea exploded its sixth and most powerful nuclear bomb.

The US Pacific Command said its initial assessment indicated that North Korea had fired an intermediate-range ballistic missile. There were conflicting reports from Japan on the type of missile fired, indicating a certain lack of trust between Tokyo and Washington. Some Japanese sources asserted that it was a long-range ballistic missile whose range was longer than the distance between North Korea and Guam, the island holding big US bases which Kim Jong-un had threatened to hit.

The latest missile to fly over their heads triggered sirens on Japan’s eastern island of Hokkado sending residents rushing to shelters.

Exactly 90 minutes after the launch, a North Korean Air Koryo flight 151 took off from Pyongyang for Beijing apparently signifying that shooting missiles was not an extraordinary event for the North Korean ruler.

South Korea responded with a live fire drill that included a missile launch which the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff said was capable of striking Sunan launch pad from which the latest North Korean missile was test-fired.

The Trump administration’s response did not indicate that any action was afoot. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke of a reckless action that put millions of Japanese in duck and cover mode, while Secretary of State Rex Tillerson again called on China and Russia to restrain Pyongyang.

USA vs North Korea: This is the US military arsenal poised to WIPE OUT Kim’s threat

September 4, 2017

USA vs North Korea: This is the US military arsenal poised to WIPE OUT Kim’s threat, Express [UK]Will Kirby, September 4, 2017

[French] Foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned a nuclear strike on Europe was possible and said a world war could erupt in months.

He said: “The situation is extremely serious… we see North Korea setting itself as an objective to have, tomorrow or the day after, missiles that can transport nuclear weapons.

“In a few months that will be a reality.”

***********************

After ’s UN envoy said the country would never bow down to international pressure and give up its nuclear weapons program, diplomatic means of addressing the hostilities appear to have been sidelined in favour of military action.

’s UN ambassador Nikki Haley and the President himself have said “the time for talk is over”, despite China, Russia, and other members of the US administration claiming dialogue remains the main aim.

The US military has a huge presence in the area around North Korea, particularly in Japan and increasingly close allies South Korea.

There are almost 40,000 US troops serving in Japan, more than in any other country, and earlier this year the US Air Force lined up a huge array of helicopters, tactical fighter jets and surveillance aircraft in a show of force aimed to intimidate Kim Jong-un.

Among the aircraft were HH-60 Pave Hawks, a twin-turboshaft helicopter primarily used for the insertion and rescue of special operation personnel.

The aircraft’s versatility makes it incredibly useful in other operations too, including civilian rescue and disaster relief.

The F-15 Eagles, America’s twin-engine, all-weather tactile fighter jets, are also stationed in the region and are among the most successful modern fighters, with over 100 victories and no losses in aerial combat.

Also headquartered in Japan is the Seventh Fleet, the largest of the US navy’s deployed sea forces.

The flagship carrier is the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft supercarrier that forms part of “the most effective and agile fighting force in the world”.

Two US Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers fly from Guam escorted by a pair of Japanese F-15 fighter jets. REUTERS

Also in the fleet are up to 14 destroyers and cruisers at any given time, some armed with ballistic missile interceptors.

A collection of long-range Tomahawk land missiles, which made headlines earlier this year when President Trump fired 59 of them at an airbase in Syria, joins the arsenal.

As if that wasn’t enough, there are also 12 nuclear-powered submarines available should war break out.

South of the demilitarised zone (DMZ), the US has 23,468 troops at 83 different sites as well as hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles, meaning there is always a heavy military presence should North Korea decide to launch a land attack.

There is also the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system, which, despite criticism from Beijing and Pyongyang, is ready and waiting to intercept missiles and destroy the incoming projectiles while in mid-flight.

Guam, the US territory that Kim Jong-un has threatened to fire four ballistic missiles towards, is also host to a huge military presence.

Much of the island is controlled by the armed forces and the Andersen air base hosts a range of bombers, resulting in Guam being dubbed a “permanent aircraft carrier”.

Among the aircraft at the base are B-1B bombers, B-52 bombers and F-35B stealth fighters, some of the US Air Force’s most impressive jets.

The revered B-52 bomber is capable of carrying more than 30 tonnes of weapons. GETTY

The B-1B bomber is heralded for its survivability and although initially designed to carry nuclear arms, it was converted to carry more conventional weaponry after the Cold War.

The US is believed to have at least six B-1B bombers stationed in Guam and is best suited to a ‘medium threat environment’, rather than a heavily defended airspace.

Speaking about plans for a possible preemptive strike on North Korea earlier this month, retired Admiral James Stavridis told NBC News: “The B-1b has also been selected because it has the added benefit of not being able to carry nuclear weapons.

“Military planners think that will signal China, Russia, and Pyongyang that the US is not trying to escalate an already bad situation any further.”

The B-52 was first introduced in 1955 and was originally designed to carry nuclear weapons during the Cold War. It remains one of the most superior aircraft in the US Air Force.

The long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber is capable of carrying more than 30 tons of weapons. The aircraft’s fearsome appearance and reputation has resulted in the nickname BUFF, which stands for Big Ugly Fat F*****.

The US also maintains a smaller presence in other countries in the region, including Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. US military aircraft use Thai runways while the US Navy will operate four warships out of Singapore by next year.

Tensions have been stepped across the region over recent days following North Korea firing a test missile over Japan.

The provocative action saw South Korea and US forces drop bombs on the border of the hermit state.

Earlier today France warned the situation was “extremely serious”.

Foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned a nuclear strike on Europe was possible and said a world war could erupt in months.

He said: “The situation is extremely serious… we see North Korea setting itself as an objective to have, tomorrow or the day after, missiles that can transport nuclear weapons.

“In a few months that will be a reality.”

Powers may end up with Iranian model for NKorea

September 3, 2017

Powers may end up with Iranian model for NKorea, DEBKAfile, September 3, 2017

(Obama’s “deal” with Iran (also known as the Iran scam) worked perfectly — for Iran. An even better deal for North Korea? Great idea. Not. Perhaps the “Israeli option” is the only realistic option available. Please see also, Germany’s Merkel: Iran deal a model for solving North Korea problem. — DM)

The only time military action was applied against a North Korean nuclear facility was on Sept. 6, 2007 when the Israeli Air Force and special forces blew up the plutonium reactor under construction by North Korea in the eastern Syrian province of Deir ez-Zour, in Operation Orchard. This plant was intended to be Iran’s main supplier of plutonium and had it been finished, would have accelerated Tehran’s advance towards a hydrogen bomb.

The North Korean leader will want much more than the deal won by Tehran, for a 10-year moratorium against a $150 billion pledge and many other rewards. Kim, whose arsenal is far more advanced, will certainly go a lot higher. His leverage for extortion is unassailable. He can either bargain for a mountain of cash or carry on looming over his Pacific neighbors and the United States, armed with advanced ballistic missiles and a nuclear bomb. He would then be faithful to the legacy of his father Kim Jong-Il, who declared in 1995 that a nuclear program was the only guarantee of his dynasty’s survival.

For now, both Iran and North Korea, long in cahoots on their weapons programs, are riding high.

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Even North Korea’s 150-kiloton hydrogen bomb and avowed ability to fit it onto an intercontinental ballistic missile, as Kim Jong-un demonstrated Sunday, Sept. 3, have so far drawn nothing more decisive from the world’s powers that words of condemnation and threats of stronger sanctions..

President Donald Trump called North Korea a rogue state whose words and actions were “hostile and dangerous to the United States” and convened a meeting with his national security team. Yet stronger sanctions are on the table, including stopping trade with countries doing business with North Korea.

Japan’s Shinzo Abe, already rattled by the North Korean missile that flew over his country, said the latest nuclear test, the most powerful thus far, “is completely unacceptable and we must lodge a strong protest.

South Korea said that its northern neighbor’s defiant sixth nuclear test should be met with the “strongest possible” response, including new UN Security Council sanctions to “completely isolate” the country.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed Sunday to “appropriately deal with” the latest nuclear test by North Korea. The state news agency Xinhua said, “The two leaders agreed to stick to the goal of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and keep close communication and coordination to deal with the new situation.”

But still, there is no sign of all these powers getting together for tangible, effective concerted action.

Since the Kim regime’s the first underground nuclear test on Oct. 9, 2006, almost every conceivable penalty and deterrent has been tried to rein in the rogue nation’s gallop towards a nuclear weapon, barring full-blown military aggression.

None worked, mainly because they were imposed piecemeal and never fully followed through. But most of all, this was because the big powers never lined up as one and pooled all their resources at the same time for concerted action. Sanctions were never comprehensive and so were never a solution.

The only time military action was applied against a North Korean nuclear facility was on Sept. 6, 2007 when the Israeli Air Force and special forces blew up the plutonium reactor under construction by North Korea in the eastern Syrian province of Deir ez-Zour, in Operation Orchard. This plant was intended to be Iran’s main supplier of plutonium and had it been finished, would have accelerated Tehran’s advance towards a hydrogen bomb.

The Israeli example has long been set aside, mainly since it was overtaken by Obama’s pro-Iran policy. Successive governments led by Binyamin Netanyahu also set this precedent aside over heavy resistance among Israel’s politicians and some of its generals to an attack on Iran’s nuclear program before it matured.

North Korea’s latest nuclear test was estimated by experts to be five times more powerful than the WWII bomb which destroyed Nagasaki. The Vienna-based Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty said it was evidence that Pyongyang’s nuclear program is “advancing rapidly.”

The leading world powers’ only real weapon against this advance is unity. But because this is so elusive, their governments – and because a military attack is seen as the worst option – those governments are apparently moving towards getting reconciled to living with a nuclear-armed Kim regime.

Against Iran, six world powers (the US, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany), did team up and so were able to negotiate the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, which left its weapons and missile programs intact although relatively free of effective oversight.

If a similar lineup confronted Kim front-un with a collective seven-day ultimatum to dismantle those programs or else face their destruction, he might decided to sit down and talk.. As things stand today, he is free to shoot ballistic missiles over Japan and detonate a hydrogen bomb like a child’s firecrackers, while the world begs him on bended knee to come and discuss freezing his belligerent programs on the Iranian model.

The North Korean leader will want much more than the deal won by Tehran, for a 10-year moratorium against a $150 billion pledge and many other rewards. Kim, whose arsenal is far more advanced, will certainly go a lot higher. His leverage for extortion is unassailable. He can either bargain for a mountain of cash or carry on looming over his Pacific neighbors and the United States, armed with advanced ballistic missiles and a nuclear bomb. He would then be faithful to the legacy of his father Kim Jong-Il, who declared in 1995 that a nuclear program was the only guarantee of his dynasty’s survival.

Attempts to starve his country and force the regime into submission have fallen short. Even South Korea does not dare stop sending aid to allay its compatriots’ endemic famine. For now, both Iran and North Korea, long in cahoots on their weapons programs, are riding high.

NKorean missile over Japan triggers sirens

August 29, 2017

NKorean missile over Japan triggers sirens, DEBKAfile, August 29, 2017

(Please see also, How Trump should respond to North Korea’s missile over Japan. — DM)

Kim Jong-un escalated his military stance early Tuesday, Aug. 29, by firing a ballistic missile over Japan’s northern Island of Hokkaido. It broke up into three pieces and landed in Japan’s Pacific, 200km from the island’s coast, after flying 2,700km. The Japanese government issued a warning over radio and TV as sirens blared and text messages were fired off across northern Japan instructing people in the missile’s flight path to take cover.

Trains were delayed as passengers were urged to seek shelter inside stations. “All lines are experiencing disruption,” one sign on Sapporo’s metro system read. “Reason: Ballistic missile launch.”

The UN Security Council called an emergency meeting for later Tuesday, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters. “This reckless act of launching a missile that flies over our country is an unprecedented, serious and important threat.”

The test, which appeared to be of a newly-developed intermediate-range Hwasong-12 missile, came as the US and South Korea conducted their annual military exercise. It followed the praise US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heaped on the North Korean dictator for his restraint in holding back a threatened missile attack on Guam.

Christopher R Hill, a former US ambassador in East Asia and the former US negotiator with North Korea, called it the “most serious missile launch yet” on Twitter. The Sunan launch site, near Pyongyang, was used for the first time and could mean that North Korea has expanded the number of sites it can use or that it may have wanted to evade detection.

Neither the Japanese military, nor the US Pacific Navy, which is on a high state of preparedness, made any effort to shoot down the missile, even when it crossed Japanese air space for the first time. Military sources say Kim had evidently caught them all napping and showed up Washington and Tokyo as short of answers for North Korean missile and nuclear advances.

After a 40-minute conversation with Donald Trump, the Japanese prime minister said they had agreed to escalate the pressure on North Korea. South Korea and the United States had discussed deploying additional “strategic assets” on the Korean peninsula, the presidential Blue House said in a statement, without giving any more details. Tillerson spoke of “tougher sanctions.”

The Washington-based Geostrategic Consulting group Strategic Sentinel tweeted that South Korean and US Joint Chiefs chairs had agreed to take strong response including military measures against North Korea. However, both Trump and Abe can hardly avoid responding to Kim’s latest provocation without serious loss of international clout and prestige. Their response is closely watched by other rogue regimes, such as Iran, as a guide to how far they can challenge the Trump administration and the West in general.