Nuclear dangers from North Korea: Managing the risks to the U.S. and Russia

Joshua H. Pollack writes: Among the most disturbing aspects of the North Korean nuclear problem today is the lack of a common perspective between Washington and Moscow. More than any other government, Russian authorities have been reluctant to acknowledge the emergence of a genuine nuclear and missile threat from North Korea to the United States. This perceptual gap is more than a mere irritant. Without corrective actions, it poses a grave danger to the United States and Russia alike, one that goes well beyond a handful of North Korean nuclear bombs.

For their own reasons, the North Koreans are irked by Russian attitudes. Returning from a recent official visit to Pyongyang, Russian lawmaker Anton Morozov said that senior North Korean officials had shared some news with his delegation: They are preparing another flight-test of a missile capable of reaching the mainland United States. He said that the North Koreans had explained the capabilities of the missile in some detail, describing its range and reentry technology, as well as the technology to “control” the warhead, a possible reference to guidance systems. All three points have come into question at various times.

No reason for this unusual presentation was given, but there is a likely explanation. Russian leaders, including President Vladimir Putin, have so far insisted that North Korea’s pair of flight-tests in July 2017 did not demonstrate an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) with the ability to reach North America. In taking this stance, the Russians have slighted the North Koreans and given them a desire to disabuse Moscow of the idea. [Continue reading…]

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