Increasingly frequent North Korean atomic weapon and advanced missile delivery system demonstrations threaten to destabilize the delicate balance of contentious relationships between the U.S., China, Iran, Russia, South Korea, Japan, and many other countries. A fifth nuclear test on Sept. 9, Pyongyang’s second this year, followed three missile tests during that same week, and about 20 this year alone.
Last June North Korea demonstrated a capability to deploy medium-range (300-mile) Musudan missiles from road-mobile launchers along with successful submarine test firings into the Sea of Japan. Both types of launches are difficult to detect and preemptively destroy. They also afford a second-strike capability if fired upon first.
Kim Jong un’s regime is believed to already have nuclear warheads small enough to fit on short-range missiles aimed at South Korea. They also claim to have tested a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can be placed on an intercontinental ballistic missile.
If and when they do, their new KN-08 intercontinental missile that placed a small satellite in space last February will be able to threaten the U.S. mainland.
According to an unclassified 2008 Congressional EMP Commission report, one or more small atomic electromagnetic pulse devices detonated above Chicago can black-out vast regions of our critical civilian and military electronics infrastructure for months or even years with unthinkable consequences.
It projected that a year-long blackout would cause 90 percent of the population — tens of millions of Americans — to perish from starvation and societal chaos.
The U.S. and China jointly advanced a U.N. Security Council resolution following Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test earlier this year which included cutoffs of aviation fuel and mandatory cargo inspections. That cooperation soured after Washington and Seoul agreed to install a “Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense” (Thaad) missile system by the end of next year.
America’s strong allies South Korea and Japan have particularly good reasons to worry about North Korea’s growing nuclear ambitions. Warm diplomatic efforts by South Korean president Ms. Park Geun-hye to encourage Chinese leader Xi Jinping to intervene have markedly cooled over Thaad.
Although China has gone along with increasingly onerous U.N. Security Council sanctions against North Korea . . . even considering severance of oil supplies, Thaad continues to represents a very sore point in ongoing negotiations because it can also be used to track Chinese missiles, raising their concern about U.S. military encirclement.
Concurrently, North Korea offers China a strategic buffer in disputes centered upon growing security tensions in the South China Sea and Korean Peninsula.
For China, the prospect of putting nuclear missiles in hands of an erratic regime that has threatened to incinerate Seoul in a “sea of fire” represents less of a national threat than would a total Korean economic collapse which transfers a huge number of refugees across their border.
By international extension, however, North Korea’s aggressive “loose cannon” posture contributes substantial risks of both.
Recent joint U.S.-South Korea annual military drills allegedly provoked North Korea’s National Defense Commission to issue an “all-out offensive” with “preemptive” nuclear strikes against “U.S. imperialist aggressor forces” based in the Asia-Pacific region and the U.S. mainland.
The statement said: “If we push the buttons to annihilate the enemies even right now, all bases of provocations will be reduced to seas in flames and ashes in a moment.”
Iran and Russia have separate agenda interests regarding this most dangerous corner of the planet. Iran and North Korea are known to have worked together on nuclear and missile technology since at least 1993. Included are exchange visitations of nuclear and rocket scientists, and $500 million in known Iranian financing for North Korea’s nuclear program in return for nuclear technology threatening Israel.
Iran and Russia were planning joint military operations against the Islamic State and U.S.-backed anti-President Bashar al-Assad regime rebels in Syria since 2012 which also continued throughout the Iran nuclear negotiations.
That final deal freed up money to purchase Russian weapons, including S-300 surface-to-air missile systems that Iran ordered in 2007, three years before the U.N. imposed an arms embargo.
Security Council, U.S. and Russian diplomats continue to push for North Korea interventions which will require leveraging China’s responsibility and influence.
President Obama recently promised to take “additional significant steps, including new sanctions that demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences to its unlawful and dangerous actions.”
Earlier this year Congress authorized “secondary sanctions” against Chinese firms that trade with black-listed North Korean entities. In addition to profiting those companies, that money finances a flow of luxuries across the border used to help keep Kim Jong- un’s regime elites in line.
Despite strong rhetoric, the Obama administration has not indicated any willingness to apply secondary sanctions. Instead, fully expect North Korea’s nuclear can of calamities to be kicked down the road for its successor to deal with, just as they did with Iran’s.
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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