North Korean nuclear ambitions to be defining issue for Trump

Bloomberg reports: Trump will be forced to deal with ongoing threats from North Korea as that country gains the ability to threaten the continental U.S. with a nuclear strike, an official said on Sunday, hours after Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile into nearby seas.

North Korea will probably develop its ballistic missile technology enough to pair with its nuclear weapons to reach the U.S. during Trump’s tenure, said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Either the U.S. gets the Chinese to help increase pressure on North Korea through sanctions, or Trump will have “a truly consequential decision,” Haass said on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS” on Sunday.

“Trump is going to have to face a truly fateful decision about whether we’re prepared to live with that, a North Korea that has that capability against us, or we are going to use military force one way or another to destroy their nuclear missile capability,” Haass said. [Continue reading…]

The New York Times reports: South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the test, the first by the North this year, demonstrated the “maniacal obsession” of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, with developing a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile.

The test came less than two days after Mr. Trump said on Friday that defending against the nuclear and missile threats from North Korea was a “very, very high priority.” Mr. Trump made the comment at a news conference with Mr. Abe at the White House. In their joint statement, the two leaders had urged North Korea “to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and not to take any further provocative actions.” [Continue reading…]

David Wright writes: The missile was apparently launched eastward from the Panghyon air base near Kusong, northwest of Pyongyang and traveled 500 km, splashing down in the Sea of Japan. According to the South Korean military, it flew on a lofted trajectory, reaching an apogee of about 550 km.

A missile flown on this trajectory would have a range of 1,200-1,250 km if flown on a standard trajectory with the same payload.

That range is similar to that of the North Korean Nodong missile, which was first tested in the early 1990s and has been launched repeatedly since then. Another launch of the Nodong would not be particularly useful for advancing Pyongyang’s missile program, so if that was what was launched it would have had a political motivation.

However, as Jeffrey Lewis points out, the trajectory is very similar to the trajectory the submarine-launched KN-11 missile flew in its first successful test last August. While similar in range to the Nodong, the KN-11 has the advantage that it uses solid rather than liquid fuel, which means it would take less preparation time before a launch. The North is likely to be interested in developing and testing a land-based version of the missile.

If this is what was launched, it would represent a useful developmental step for North Korea, no matter what may have driven the timing of the launch. [Continue reading…]

Print Friendly
Facebooktwittermail