Decades of wistful diplomacy and procrastination now leave America’s mainland vulnerable to immediate and perilous threats posed by a nuclear North Korea. Making matters worse, there are no good options going forward. Any solutions that rely upon real help from China, the U.N. Security Council, or much less Russia, are illusory.
The big hope has been that China, North Korea’s main trading partner, would take greater actions to cut off Pyongyang’s economic lifeline. Although China has previously gone along with increasingly onerous U.N. Security Council sanctions against North Korea even considering severance of oil supplies — that dream is fading fast.
History has proven that we can’t depend upon intervention by Beijing to curtail this existential nuclear threat. Presidents Clinton, G.W. Bush, and Obama all relied upon China to pressure Pyongyang — with no evidence to date of any influence.
The Kremlin nixed a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning North Korea’s July 4 launch of its first intercontinental missile on the lame pretext that its Ministry of Defense couldn’t confirm that the missile could be classified as an ICBM. Its statement said, "Therefore we are not in a position to agree to this classification on behalf of the whole council since there is no consensus on this issue."
Even North Korea has claimed that their "Hwasong-14" missile which is capable of reaching Alaska was an ICBM. Their state media reported, "As a full-fledged nuclear power that has been possessed of the most powerful intercontinental ballistic rocket capable of hitting any part of the world, along with nuclear weapons, the DPRK [North Korea] will fundamentally put an end to the U.S. nuclear war threat and blackmail."
The hermit nation’s leader Kim Jong Un referred to the ICBM test as a "package of gifts" on U.S Independence Day." He pledged on television that his "showdown with U.S. imperialists has reached its final phase."
Emphasizing the growing danger, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, "Testing an ICBM represents a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region, and the world." U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley warned Security Council attendees that the "time is short" for diplomatic action, and that the Trump administration would be prepared to use considerable military preemptive forces if necessary.
All diplomatic efforts and sanctions to arrest this North Korean menace have thus far proven fruitless. Even so, unlike his father and grandfather who used their missile program to leverage economic concessions and revenues from weapon exports, the new dictator has evidenced absolutely no interest in negotiating with any country. Since taking power in 2011 he has not met with world leaders, or even ventured outside his isolated kingdom.
New cooperation between Beijing and Moscow could further complicate U.S. efforts to curtail Pyongyang. Chinese President Xi Jinping recently told the Russian media that relationships between the two countries are currently the "best time in history," and that China and Russia are one another’s "most trustworthy strategic partners." Both clearly want to loosen America’s global alliances, and they often back each other in U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Adam Mount, a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress, observes, "I think we need to be aware of the possibility that China and Russia could take a step back from containing the regime and move towards increased diplomatic recognition, which could someday lead to their recognition of North Korea as a nuclear state." He told The Wall Street Journal, "That would be in keeping with Russia’s modus operandi, which is to support rogue regimes that complicate America’s influence throughout the world."
China and Russia both share a land border with North Korea which serves as a buffer between western-aligned South Korea. Both resent the U.S. actions in Syria . . . and both have also expressed strong opposition against U.S. installation of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile missile systems in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.
THAAD continues to represents a very sore point in ongoing U.S.-China negotiations because it can also be used to track Chinese missiles, raising their concern about U.S. military encirclement. Chinese and Russian influence has also caused newly-elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in to push back against THAAD installations.
North Korea now has multiple paths to achieve a nuclear warhead ICBM. In addition to their Hwasong-14, they have twice successfully launched satellites from three-stage ballistic rockets, the first stage of which could form the basis for an ICBM capable of reaching the U.S. West Coast. Notably, this other new rocket’s high-performance liquid-fueled engine appears to have been developed from scratch rather than by adapting a Russian or Chinese design.
As the nuclear North Korea time bomb continues to tick, doctrines of serial appeasement and procrastination bring our nation and world ever closer to the brink of disaster. Only American steadfast determination can defuse it.
Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of “Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom”(2015) and “Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax” (2012). Read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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