Whether China is right about North Korea conducting a nuclear test on April 25 remains to be seen, but for now Kim Jong-Un is content with merely escalating the verbal warfare and overnight North Korean state media warned the United States of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” following the latest round of comments by Rex Tillerson who said the United States was looking at ways to bring pressure to bear on North Korea over its nuclear programme.
The Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, did not mince its words: “In the case of our super-mighty preemptive strike being launched, it will completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists’ invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes” it said according to Reuters.
The threat will hardly come as a surprise: the reclusive communist nation regularly threatens to destroy Japan, South Korea and the United States “and has shown no let-up in its belligerence after a failed missile test on Sunday, a day after putting on a huge display of missiles at a parade in Pyongyang.”
The comments come in response to Tillerson statement in Washington on Wednesday when he told reporters that “we’re reviewing all the status of North Korea, both in terms of state sponsorship of terrorism as well as the other ways in which we can bring pressure on the regime in Pyongyang to re-engage with us, but re-engage with us on a different footing than past talks have been held,”
While US and North Korean officials have traded verbal missiles in the past few days, China has been noticably quiet. However, that just changed as a prominent Chinese expert told The Nikkei that China likely will halt crude oil exports to North Korea should Pyongyang conduct its sixth nuclear test, signaling a tougher attitude by Beijing toward its rogue neighbor.
North Korea relies almost entirely on China for oil. The Asian giant shipped about 500,000 tons of crude to the North each year until 2013, according to the Chinese customs agency. Bilateral ties cooled that year after Pyongyang carried out its third nuclear test, and exports officially have remained at zero since 2014. But China is believed to still provide crude to North Korea off the books. A complete freeze would impact the North Korean economy.
A nuclear test or the launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles would violate United Nations Security Council resolutions, and China is certain to respond with additional sanctions, said Zhang Liangui, a professor at the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Party School and noted authority on North Korea.
The option to cut off the North’s crude supply will be put on the table, Zhang said, while stressing that the Chinese government will ultimately decide its course of action.
Diplomatic sources have also suggested a halt to crude exports and financial exchanges. The Global Times, an affiliate of Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily, recently published editorials arguing that North Korea’s nuclear experiments must be stopped, and that China should make clear that it will cut off crude exports in response to further tests.
However, even if China says it has stopped all crude exports to North Korea, such a claim cannot not be verified, given that past shipments have not been reflected in official data. Some also argue that it is technologically difficult to completely shut off the pipeline between China and the North. It remains unclear just how serious Beijing has become toward handling Pyongyang’s threat.
Just when a few hours had passed without any escalation around the Korean Peninsula, The Guardian reports that the US military is considering shooting down North Korean missile tests as a show of strength to Pyongyang according to two sources briefed on the plans.
As the USS Carl Vinson heads towards the peninsula, along with two oither carriers, the Pentagon is looking for ways short of war to pressure North Korea into denuclearization, particularly if Pyongyang goes forward with an anticipated sixth nuclear test.
The option, which defense secretary James Mattis has briefed to Congress, has, as The Guardian reports, yet to mature into a decision by the military to intercept a tested missile. One US official said the prospective shoot-down strategy would be aimed at occurring after a nuclear test, with the objective being to signal Pyongyang that the US can impose military consequences for a transgression Donald Trump has said is unacceptable. But experts and former officials said shooting down a North Korean missile during a test risks an escalation that Washington may not be able to control, one that risks war on the Korean peninsula and potentially devastating consequences to allies South Korea and Japan.
North Korea could either carry out new ballistic missile launches or conduct nuclear tests shortly in commemoration of its public holiday, Russian Ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora told Sputnik.
“If you carefully read the North Korean press, then there is no need to even guess. They themselves openly say that ‘we will mark the upcoming glorious anniversary with significant events,’ in the plural at that,” Matsegora said.
North Korea celebrates the 105th anniversary of its founder Kim Il Sung’s birth on April 15, Saturday.
“We can well imagine what events these will be. Some believe that the choice is only in two possible events: either new tests or a missile launch,” Matsegora said.
The ambassador added that, the US aircraft carrier group dispatched toward North Korea is a provocation that did not contribute to de-escalation on the Korean Peninsula.
“Of course, annual US exercises this year are particularly provocative,” Matsegora said. “Taking into account the fact that the US is bringing up an airborne strike group here, this does not work toward calming the situation.”
The Russian envoy stressed that the US drills “are really working out a plan to seize Pyongyang, destroy the leadership of the country, approach the Russian and Chinese border, establish administrative control over the provinces of North Korea.”
Four election promises/statements reversed within an hour
Trump just reversed his position on NATO.
“NATO is not obsolete,” he said at a press conference today.
He had previously said: “I said a long time ago that NATO had problems,” Trump said during the interview with the Times of London and Germany’s Bild. “Number one, it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago. Number two, the countries weren’t paying what they’re supposed to pay.”
Yellen is ‘toast’, he had said. He railed against Yellen and Federal Reserve in one of the debates but now he’s having second thoughts, saying he likes Yellen and is open to extender her term.
Low rate policy. “They’re not doing their jobs,” by keeping rates low at the Fed, he said in the debate. Today: “I like low rate policy.”
“China isn’t manipulating it’s currency,” he said today. That’s a 180-degree turn from what he was saying in the final weeks of the campaign, when he promised to label China a currency manipulator.
To top it off, he just said “Right now we’re not getting along with Russia at all. We may be at an all-time low” in the relationship. He also said that going it alone against North Korea means going at it with other nations. “Going it alone means going it with lots of other nations.”
After warnings yesterday, and on the heels of a “very good call” with President Trump, China has escalated its threats to North Korea over its nuclear tests. In another Global Times op-ed, China warns “if the North makes another provocative move this month, the Chinese society will be willing to adopt severe restrictive measures that have never been seen before…”
Yesterday’s editorial in the military-focused Global Times tabloid, owned and operated by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper, said that North Korea’s nuclear activities must not jeopardize northeastern China, and that if the North impacts China with its illicit nuclear tests through either “nuclear leakage or pollution”, then China will respond with force.
“China has a bottom line that it will protect at all costs, that is, the security and stability of northeast China… If the bottom line is touched, China will employ all means available including the military means to strike back. By that time, it is not an issue of discussion whether China acquiesces in the US’ blows, but the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will launch attacks to DPRK nuclear facilities on its own.”
This, as the editorial puts it, is the “bottom line” for China; should it be crossed China will employ all means available including the military means to strike back,” warned the editorial.
Kyodo and Nikkei have similar reports saying that US officials have discussed the option of attacking North Korea with Japanese leaders. The US officials reportedly agreed to discussions (or notifications) for Japan before anything takes place.
North Korea has nuclear weapons that can reach Japan.
The sources who spoke with Kyodo said the action would be a second (or third) option in China refuses to pressure North Korea into curbing its missile and nuclear programs.
President Donald Trump said the U.S. can “totally” address North Korea’s nuclear threat unilaterally if China doesn’t cooperate to put pressure on that nation, according to the Financial Times.
“If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you,” Trump said in an interview published on Sunday. When pressed about whether he could do it one-on-one without China’s help, the president said, “I don’t have to say any more. Totally.”
The comments come ahead of Trump’s planned summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida. The North Korean threat is expected to take center stage at the April 6-7 talks. Trump said he’ll discuss North Korea and the scope for cooperation when he hosts the Chinese leader.
“China has great influence over North Korea,” Trump said in the interview. “And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t.” Cooperation with the U.S. “will be very good for China,” he said. If they don’t cooperate, “it won’t be good for anyone.”
North Korea has been developing and testing its ballistic missile technology, and South Korean intelligence has warned that North Korea could conduct its sixth nuclear bomb test in the first week of April to “overshadow” the summit.
Trump declined to reveal how he’d pursue the subject, or whether he would begin the talks with the Chinese president by bringing up North Korea and then pivoting to trade with China. He suggested a change in strategy from the past, saying his predecessors telegraphed their actions such as military strikes in the Middle East.
Update: North Korea warned Monday that U.S.-South Korean military exercises, which it called “the most undisguised nuclear war maneuvers,” are driving the Korean Peninsula and northeast Asia toward “nuclear disaster.” The North Korean ambassador to the United Nations, Ja Song Nam, said in a letter to the U.N. Security Council that the U.S. is using nuclear-propelled aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, nuclear strategic bombers and stealth fighters in the joint exercises that began Wednesday. “It may go over to an actual war,” Ja warned of the military drills, “and, consequently, the situation on the Korean Peninsula is again inching to the brink of a nuclear war.”
“Involved in the drill were Hwasong artillery units of the KPA Strategic Force tasked to strike the bases of the U.S. imperialist aggressor forces in Japan in contingency,” the North’s official KCNA news agency said.
“In the hearts of artillerymen … there was burning desire to mercilessly retaliate against the warmongers going ahead with their joint war exercises,” KCNA said.
“He (Kim) ordered the KPA Strategic Force to keep highly alert as required by the grim situation in which an actual war may break out any time, and get fully ready to promptly move, take positions and strike so that it can open fire to annihilate the enemies.”
The letter was sent a few hours after North Korea fired four banned ballistic missiles. Ja said the main reason North Korea is equipping itself “with nuclear attack capabilities” and strengthening its nuclear deterrent forces is in self-defense against what he called the U.S. “extreme anti-DPRK hostile policy and nuclear threats and blackmails as well as maneuvers to enforce its nuclear weapons.”
North Korea on Monday fired a projectile into the East Sea, with South Korea’s Yonhap News reporting it may have been an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The potential missile test comes as South Korea and the U.S. undertake annual military drills that Pyongyang has called a prelude to an invasion. South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff are analyzing the details of the projectile including the distance and the type, Yonhap said.
The regime in Pyongyang has fired a series of missiles and conducted three nuclear tests since Kim Jong Un came to power. The launch could be a step toward the development of a missile that is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to the continental U.S.
Kim has carried out his tests in defiance of a United Nations ban on weapons development and despite tightening sanctions aimed at pressuring him to give up his nuclear ambitions.
His actions are adding to tensions with key ally China after the death of Kim’s half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, in a Malaysia airport. China, which accounts for most of North Korea’s trade, banned all coal imports from its neighbor following the murder.