China denounced Monday the threat of a trade probe by the Trump administration over alleged intellectual property thefts, arguing there was no future in a trade war.
At the same time, Beijing announced a total ban on North Korean coal imports in an apparent effort to show cooperation in pressuring Pyongyang.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying made the comments at a news conference here, adding that Beijing and Washington “will be the losers” in a trade war.
Frustrated with China’s inaction on North Korea, the U.S. is preparing to invoke the obscure Section 301 of a 1974 trade law to launch an investigation.
China assailed President Donald Trump’s attempt to link economic issues to cooperation against North Korea’s nuclear and missile efforts. “The Korean Peninsula and trade are different issues. The two nations should respect each other and enhance cooperation over these issues,” said Hua. “It’s highly inappropriate to use one issue to put pressure on the other.”
Asked by foreign media whether China would maintain neutrality in the event of a U.S. counterstrike against a North Korean missile launch, Hua said she could not respond to hypothetical questions, and that she hoped the situation would relax to allow for a solution through diplomatic means. Her choice of words signaled a desire to avoid an all-fronts confrontation with Washington.
After President Donald Trump warned on Friday that the US military is “locked and loaded” and presumably prepared for an all-out nuclear showdown with North Korea, administration officials engaged in that most artful of Trump-era maneuvers: softening the president’s rhetoric without appearing to undercut him.
Now that financial markets are taking the threat of nuclear war between the US and North Korea seriously – or were until this morning – the administration is trying to walk a fine line between reassuring investors that nuclear war isn’t imminent, while stressing that all military options remain on the table. Echoing comments made by CIA Director Mike Pompeo on the Sunday talk shows, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford emphasized during a meeting with South Korea’s president that the US will only resort to military options once all “diplomatic and economic sanctions” have been exhausted, according to Reuters.
“U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford said on Monday U.S. military options being prepared against North Korea would be for when diplomatic and economic sanctions failed, South Korea’s president’s office said on Monday.
Dunford made the comments to South Korean President Moon Jae-in in a 50-minute meeting to discuss recent issues including North Korean provocation, office spokesman Park Su-hyun told a media briefing.”
Gen Dunford met President Moon during his tour of the region
Global markets are closed for the weekend, so we will need to wait until tomorrow evening to see how investors react to the latest back-and-forth between the North Korean government and President Donald Trump. In North Korea’s latest salvo in its war of words, a state-run newspaper declared in an editorial that the country’s Paektusan army is now “on standby to launch fire into its [the US’s] mainland, waiting for an order of final attack.”
The comments follow a Friday report from KBS World Radio, the official international broadcasting station of South Korea (which is owned by the Korean Broadcasting System), that “North Korean authorities have dispatched emergency standby orders to the leaders of the ruling Workers’ Party committees and civil defense units.”
With markets about to close for the next 2 days, the question on every trader’s mind is: “should i carry risk over the weekend, or should I dump it all in case North Korea fires another test, or non-test, ICBM launch which may be just the provocation Trump needs to give the green light to a squadron of B-1 bombers to begin a bombing campaign.” After all, Trump himself tweeted this morning that “military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”
While we don’t know if Kim will “find another path”, late on Friday KBS World Radio, the official international broadcasting station of South Korea (which is owned by the Korean Broadcasting System), reports that according to Radio Free Asia (RFA), in a potential warning that Pyongyang may be preparing yet another imminent escalation, “North Korean authorities have dispatched emergency standby orders to the leaders of the ruling Workers’ Party committees and civil defense units.”
South Korea’s central bank has contingency plans to move its reserves to provincial cities if war breaks out, the bank said Friday. The Bank of Korea also has deposited some of its gold bars in the Bank of England to protect its assets.
“We definitely have plan to protect our reserves. We will move them to major provincial cities where our regional offices are based,” said Kim Jo-kyung, a bank spokesperson. The BOK has 16 provincial offices, including in Busan, Gwangju and Daejeon.
A BOK director said that the bank has also stored some of its gold bars at the Bank of England. “We also have our gold in the BOE in case of war or other emergency situations,” said the director, who asked not to be named.
The bank’s foreign reserves amounted to $383.7 billion in July, up $3.2 billion from June, with the gold holdings valued at $4.8 billion, accounting for 1.2% of total assets.
South Korean conglomerates and foreign companies are reviewing their business continuity plans as tensions between Pyongyang and Washington mount. “I am sure we have a contingency plan in case of war and other emergencies, though we do not reveal it outside the company,” said Cha Seon-jin, a spokeswoman for Hyundai Motor, the nation’s largest automaker.
North Korea’s missile launch Friday broke with routine, as Pyongyang looked to unsettle the international community and demonstrate to the U.S. that it can strike America.
The rogue nation tested a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile around 11:42 p.m., the second ICBM launch since July 4. But a late-night launch is unusual, as all 11 previous ballistic missile tests this year were conducted in the morning except for a May 21 launch in the early evening. And the missile was fired from a site in Jagang Province, not a location in North Pyongan Province where activity had been detected prior to the launch.
North Korea showed that it has the ability to launch an ICBM from any place at any time, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said.
South Korea’s government responded strongly to some media reports that it was unable to predict the time and location of the launch. The Blue House said Sunday that President Moon Jae-in had received a report two days earlier on Wednesday.
“The launch was timed to take place in the morning in the U.S.,” said Kim Dong-yup, professor at the University of North Korean Studies here. The professor thinks Pyongyang wanted to show Washington that it can fire an ICBM in order to achieve leader Kim Jong Un’s goal of getting assurances from the U.S. that his regime will not be toppled.
In a pair of tweets Saturday evening, President Trump said he is “disappointed” in China after North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan.
“I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk,” Trump wrote, adding, “We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!”
I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet…
The launch Friday was North Korea’s 11th ballistic missile test this year. The U.S. and South Korea responded by firing short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan “as a show of force,” the U.S. military said in a statement.
Trump has frequently invoked the Chinese government after North Korean missile tests. In May, after the North Koreans fired off a short-range Scud missile, he tweeted: “North Korea has shown great disrespect for their neighbor, China, by shooting off yet another ballistic missile…but China is trying hard!”
In April, a botched North Korean ballistic missile test drew this response from the president: “North Korea disrespected the wishes of China & its highly respected President when it launched, though unsuccessfully, a missile today. Bad!”
Ahead of this week’s G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, Donald Trump called the leaders of China and Japan to discuss the “threat posed by North Korea’, along with trade issues, the White House said on Sunday. Trump spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose LDP had just suffered a devastating loss in the Tokyo Assembly elections, and according to the White House read out, “both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a denuclearized Korean Peninsula” adding that “President Trump reiterated his determination to seek more balanced trade relations with America’s trading partners.”
The terse statement did not provide further details of the call or say if Trump managed to persuade Xi to endorse his approach of exerting maximum pressure on North Korea, including a slew of further economic and trade sanctions.
According to Reuters, the call may have been prompted by Trump increasing frustration with China’s inability to rein in North Korea, and the reference to trade was an indication the president may be ready to return to his tougher-talking ways on business with Beijing after holding back in hopes it would put more pressure on Pyongyang. Trump and Xi discussed the “peace and stability of the Korean peninsula”, China’s Foreign Ministry said, without elaborating.
Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang later told a daily briefing that the United States was “very clear” about China’s position on North Korea. Geng did not elaborate on what Xi told Trump about North Korea.
One of North Korea’s missile test-firings in May suggests that the country’s ballistics development program is nearly complete.
On May 14, Pyongyang launched an intermediate-range missile, what it calls a Hwasong-12. The projectile reached an altitude of more than 2,000km — well out of the Earth’s atmosphere, which is about 480km thick — then hit the Sea of Japan while traveling at least Mach 15.
Mach 1 is the speed of sound. Mach 2 is twice that.
That the missile did not disintegrate upon its re-entry into the atmosphere shows that it is capable of carrying and delivering a warhead.
Furthermore, it is believed that the missile’s electronics were able to keep measuring the inside temperature, flying speed and perhaps other data — and send the information back to ground control.
Sometime later, a national security source who is familiar with Japan’s missile defense circumstances told me, “North Korea appears to have completed the development of a Japan-targeted nuclear missile.”
Earlier today, Vladimir Putin warned that “the situation in Korea is deteriorating” and joined China in urging all sides to “avoid belligerent rhetoric.” It was not clear what spooked the Russian president to escalate the rhetoric over North Korea, however in a move that will hardly help deescalate tensions, a North Korean propaganda outlet released a video clip on Thursday, which showed a simulated attack on the White House and declaring that “the enemy to be destroyed is in our sights.”
The video was released just days after North Korea conducted large-scale artillery drills, showing off conventional weaponry that can easily reach South Korea’s capital, Seoul. It also comes one day after the entire Senate was gathered at the White House to receive a briefing from Trump’s top generals on the situation in North Korea. At the same time, the US sub, USS Michigan, which carries Tomahawk cruise missiles, docked in the South Korean port of Busan this week. The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier, along with the destroyers and cruiser that make up its strike group, will arrive in the Korean Peninsula area this weekend.
The clip was released by a North Korean website (Meari, or Echo) showing photos of the White House and aircraft carriers with a target on them, as if they are in the crosshair, the WaPo reported earlier. It then showed simulated footage of an aircraft carrier exploding into flames, with the caption: “When the enemy takes the first step toward provocation and invasion.”
The 2½ -minute video included scenes from the huge military parade that North Korea organized April 15 to mark the anniversary of the birth of the state’s founder, Kim Il Sung. It also showed footage of North Korean artillery and missile launches.
Against the backdrop of missile launches, the caption read: “We will show you what a strong country that leads the world in nuclear and missile technology is capable of.”
A similar video, showing missiles arcing over the Pacific and leaving a U.S. city in flames, followed by images of a burning American flag and a cemetery filled with white crosses, was shown during a concert held April 16 and attended by Kim.
While North Korea is best known for its bombastic rhetoric and exaggerated propaganda, in recent weeks it has ramped up its output as tensions have risen. On the other hand, the country has abstained from engaging in more missiles tests (either successful or otherwise) or nuclear bomb tests, prompting some to speculate whether the recent intervention by China may have impacted Kim’s behavior.
On the other hand, if indeed the US has managed to sabotage North Korea’s missile technology as the NYT alleged several months ago, and has launch control, what Kim wants may no longer be relevant and the only variable is having all key US military assets in place before a simulated war with North Korea becomes all too real.