North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said the country has miniaturized nuclear warheads to mount on ballistic missiles and ordered improvements in the power and precision of its arsenal, state media reported on Wednesday.
Kim has called for his military to be prepared to mount pre-emptive attacks against the United States and South Korea and stand ready to use nuclear weapons, stepping up belligerent rhetoric after coming under new U.N. and bilateral sanctions for its nuclear and rocket tests.
More straight-laced analysts also doubted that the supposed warhead shown in pictures could actually work. North Korea previously declared it has miniaturized a nuclear warhead, a statement that has drawn some skepticism.
The test launch by North Korea last Friday of a Musudan intercontinental-ballistic missile – albeit unsuccessful as it exploded a few seconds after lift-off – has again caused ripples of nervousness throughout South Korea. Angry responses to yet another violation of UN Security Council resolutions that explicitly prohibit North Korea from using or testing ballistic missile technology have seen rapid security council moves, importantly, backed by China, to ramp up sanctions against the rogue state.
Although not formally acknowledged by Seoul yet, a senior South Korean diplomat argues that this test and the fourth illegal testing of a nuclear bomb in January mark a qualitative shift in the North’s military capabilities from potential nuclear weapons power to actual full-blown nuclear power.
It has both the ability to produce a bomb of devastating lethality and to deliver it over huge distances.The Musudan rocket is understood to have a range of at least 1,864 miles, long enough to strike, among other targets, US military bases in Guam.
That reality may well be behind the hardening of Beijing’s attitude. It is determined that its unpredictable and unbiddable ally, notably under the latest of the Kims, 33-year-old Kim Jong Un, should not be able to wield nuclear weapons, a perspective tempered until recently by its determination not to precipitate regime collapse and hence its unhappiness with sanctions.
North Korea test-fired what appeared to be two intermediate range ballistic missiles on Thursday, but both failed, the U.S. military said, in a setback for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ahead of next week's ruling party congress.
The isolated nation has conducted a series of missile launches in violation of U.N. resolutions ahead of the Workers' Party congress which begins on May 6. South Korea also says North is ready to conduct a new nuclear test at any time. China said the U.N. Security Council was working on a response to North Korea's latest missile tests, while U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged Pyongyang to cease "further provocative actions."
Yang Uk, a senior research fellow at the Korea Defence and Security Forum and a policy adviser to the South Korean navy, said the North Koreans appeared to be in a rush to demonstrate a success head of the party congress. "They need to succeed but they keep failing," he said "They didn't have enough time to fix or technically modify the system, but just shot them because they were in a hurry."
In recent weeks, North Korea fired two mid-range Musudan missiles, but both attempts failed. The U.N. Security Council discussed the latest North Korean launches behind closed doors, but the message is clear, North Korea is determined to do everything within its power to create instability in the Asia-Pacific region.
The United States depends on South Korea and Japan to help promote American values in East Asia. Until recently, both countries were involved in an ongoing conflict over the use of South Korean “comfort women” by Japanese soldiers during World War II. This historical issue presented a challenge to U.S. foreign policy, as we need our allies working together. In late 2015, the United States helped broker a bilateral agreement between Japan and South Korea to ultimately resolve the “comfort women” issue. The agreement facilitated a final apology and the Japanese government agreed to put $8.3 million into a fund to help the surviving women. President Obama praised the leaders of Japan and South Korea for “having the courage and vision to forge a lasting settlement to this difficult issue.”
Regrettably, North Korea appears determined to exacerbate tensions and increase mistrust between two of America’s most important allies in Asia. The North Korean dictatorship described the historic deal as a “humiliating agreement” and indicated its vehement opposition to any form of détente between South Korea and Japan.
Chong Dae Hyup, an extreme nationalist group with alleged ties to North Korea, has exploited this agreement by rallying nationalist furor in South Korea against Japan. One Korean-American group articulated a similar message and called on President Obama to fire Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken in a Change.Org petition, for negotiating this historic agreement. Deputy Secretary of State Blinken has called on all Korean-American groups to support the agreement and many groups have agreed to do so.
The United States must not allow North Korea to exacerbate tensions between our key strategic allies in Asia. As the leader of the free world, the United States needs to support our regional allies who are standing up to a Stalinist regime that is intent on developing nuclear weapons. At a time of escalating tensions, we need our critical allies, South Korea and Japan working together to help safeguard American interests in Asia.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said he was open to the idea of holding nuclear talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a move that would signal a sharp shift in American diplomatic policy toward the isolated Asian country.
"I would speak to him, I would have no problem speaking to him," Trump said. The presumptive GOP nominee also said he would put pressure on China, one of the few nations to support Pyongyang economically and financially, to try to stop North Korea's nuclear program.
"China can solve that problem with one meeting or one phone call," Trump said. He made the comments during an interview Tuesday with the Reuters news agency in his office at Trump Tower in New York. He did not elaborate on whether he would propose bilateral talks with delegations from the United States and North Korea or a meeting between two leaders.