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.
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.
North Korea’s foreign minister said Monday that its nuclear arms were aimed only at the U.S., not the rest of the world, and accused America of being the “origin of crisis.”
In his speech at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum on Monday, Ri Yong Ho made clear that Pyongyang would not negotiate over its nuclear and ballistic missiles. He said the country would not stop strengthening its nuclear arms, according to the minister’s spokesman, Bang Kwang Hyuk.
“We have no intention to use our nuclear arms against any country except the U.S. if it does not join the U.S.’s military actions against the republic.” Ri said in his speech.
Pyongyang’s accusations against the U.S. came just days after the United Nations Security Council toughened sanctions against North Korea by adopting a new resolution which bans the country from selling coal, iron, iron ore, seafood, lead and lead ore to other countries. It is expected to reduce the isolated country’s revenues by $1 billion, or one third of its exports, hurting its already fragile economy further.
The U.S. led the sanctions after Pyongyang successfully tested its intercontinental ballistic missiles twice in July. China also approved the resolution, pressuring North Korea further.
North Korea on Sunday denounced the new sanctions imposed two days earlier by the U.N. Security Council after Pyongyang conducted a ninth ballistic missile test this year in defiance of earlier U.N. resolutions.
On Friday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved adding 14 North Korean individuals and four North Korean companies or organizations to its blacklist over the country’s weapons program.
“The U.S. steps up its military buildup including modernization of nuclear weapons just in order to obtain exclusive and permanent possession of the most sophisticated weapon system in the world. But other country can’t be allowed to test or launch any object which goes with the words of nuclear or ‘ballistic.’ That is really the height of shameless arrogance, self-righteousness and double standards,” the statement said.
The 14 individuals newly added to the global sanctions blacklist include Cho Il U, who is believed to be in charge of overseas espionage operations, and Jo Wong Won, a close aide to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as vice director of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea’s Organization and Guidance Department.
The warning comes as the Pentagon begins an extensive review of its nuclear arsenal.
On Sept., 26, 1983, shortly after midnight, the Soviet Oko nuclear early warning system detected five missiles launched from the United States and headed toward Moscow. Stanislav Petrov, a young lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Force, was the duty in the Serpukhov-15 bunker that housed the Oko command center. Petrov was the man in charge of alerting the soviets about a nuclear attack, which would trigger a retaliatory strike. He determined that the Oko had likely malfunctioned and the alarm was false. The Americans would not start World War III with a quintet of missiles (risking total annihilation.) It was a daring judgment call. He was, of course, right. As the U.S. prepares to undertake a new nuclear posture review to determine the future direction of the nation’s nuclear weapons, a report from a United Nations research institute warns that the risks of a catastrophic error — like the one that took place that early morning in 1983 — are growing, not shrinking. Next time, there may be no Lt. Col. Petrov in place to avoid a catastrophe.
On Monday, the U.S. Defense Department commenced a new, massive study into its nuclear weapons arsenal, looking at how weapons are kept, how the U.S. would use them in war and whether they present an intimidating enough threat to other countries not to attack us. The review was mandated by President Trump in a Jan 27, memo.
“A greater reliance on automated systems can lead to misplaced confidence while introducing new points of vulnerability,” says the report. Those new points of vulnerability include so-called “hidden interactions.” That means a sensor or computer program misinterpreting some bit of data and possibly presenting false information in a way that could cause an accident.
The 1987 incident provides a good case in point. Oko satellites mistook a very unusual sunspot on top of a high altitude cloud as a missile strike, hence the false alarm.
Take those satellites, combine them with sensors on drones and data from other sources as well, including new, perhaps unproven technologies to detect missile launches and the picture becomes much more crowded and murky.
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.
A U.N. Security Council statement condemning North Korea’s latest attempted missile launch was obstructed Wednesday following Russian objections to its tough stance.
The statement would have demanded an immediate end to violations of Security Council resolutions sanctioning the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs and underscored the “vital importance” of Pyongyang “immediately showing sincere commitment to denuclearization.”
North Korea’s failed test of a ballistic missile Sunday came the day after a major military parade in celebration of the birth anniversary of the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung. The missile exploded shortly after launch.
A previous Security Council statement, released two days after Pyongyang’s April 4 missile test launch, noted the commitment of council members to “a peaceful, diplomatic and political solution to the situation and welcomed efforts by council members, as well as other states, to facilitate a peaceful and comprehensive solution through dialogue.”
The current statement was drafted by the U.S. — which is presiding over the council for the month of April — and takes a stronger position than previous council statements.
Gorbachev says the current situation on the international arena is showing all signs of a new Cold War and an ongoing arms race.
“The language of politicians and the top-level military personnel is becoming increasingly militant. Military doctrines are formulated increasingly harshly. The mass media pick up on all of this and add fuel to the fire. The relationship between the big powers continues to worsen. This creates the impression that the world is preparing for a war. So all the indications of a Cold War are there,” Gorbachev told the German Bild newspaper on Friday.
He pointed out that while in the second half of the 1980s, the USSR and the United States reached a number of important agreements and started reducing their nuclear arsenals, the situation changed after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, with Russia’s once devoted allies now standing in opposition to Moscow, and imposing anti-Russia sanctions.
Gorbachev stressed that an arms race is already underway.
“It is not merely imminent. In some places, it is already in full swing. Troops are being moved into Europe, including heavy equipment such as tanks and armoured cars. It was not so long ago that NATO troops and Russian troops were stationed quite far away from each other. They now stand nose-to-nose,” the former Soviet leader told Bild.
Last week, Gorbachev said at a meeting with lawmakers of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Moscow that there was a need to return to the idea of a “common European home.”
With Syria down, it’s now North Korea’s turn.
According to NBC News, the National Security Council has presented the suddenly ragingly bellicose President Trump with several options to respond to North Korea’s nuclear program: put American nukes in South Korea or kill dictator Kim Jong-un.
The scenarios were prepared in advance of Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week. The White House has expressed hopes the Chinese will do more to influence Pyongyang through diplomacy and enhanced sanctions, but if that fails, and North Korea continues its development of nuclear weapons, there are other options on the table that would significantly alter U.S. policy.
While Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, maintained on Wednesday that “any solution to the North Korea problem has to involve China” a senior intel official told NBC he doubted U.S. and China could find a diplomatic solution to the crisis. “We have 20 years of diplomacy and sanctions under our belt that has failed to stop the North Korean program,” said the official involved in the review. “I’m not advocating pre-emptive war, nor do I think that the deployment of nuclear weapons buys more for us than it costs,” but he stressed that the U.S. was dealing with a “war today” situation.
The “nuclear” option would mark the first overseas nuclear deployment since the end of the Cold War, a move that would promptly provoke global condemnation, not least of all by China. It was not immediately clear if South Korea’s regime – in turmoil recently following the recent impeachment and arrest of ex-president Park – had been consulted with the proposed strategy. The U.S. withdrew all
nuclear weapons from South Korea 25 years ago.