North Korea ICBM test a game-changer

North Korea successfully tested a multi-stage ICBM that many experts believe has the range to hit Alaska and perhaps even major population centers on the west coast of the U.S.

The missile, Hwasong-14, flew 580 miles, reaching an altitude of 1,741 miles in its 39 minutes of flight.  The flight profile suggested that the missile had a range of about 5,000 miles and perhaps as much as 7,100 miles.

Alarm bells went off all over the world when the test became public.  The planet's most paranoid, unstable regime is now in possession of a weapon that, once the technological hurdles of marrying a nuclear warhead to the missile are overcome, threatens tens of millions of lives.

Without exaggeration, the test is a game-changer.

Reuters:

The U.N. Security Council, currently chaired by China, will hold an emergency meeting on the matter at 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT) on Wednesday, following a request by the United States, Japan and South Korea.

Diplomats say Beijing has not been fully enforcing existing international sanctions on its neighbor, and has resisted tougher measures, such as an oil embargo, bans on the North Korean airline and guest workers, and measures against Chinese banks and other firms doing business with the North.

A 2015 U.N. document estimated that more than 50,000 North Korean workers were overseas earning currencies for the regime, with the vast majority in China and Russia.

North Korea appeared to have used a Chinese truck, originally sold for hauling timber, but later converted for military use, to transport and erect the missile on Tuesday.

Trump has indicated he is running out of patience with Beijing's efforts to rein in North Korea. His administration has said all options are on the table, military included, but suggested those would be a last resort and that sanctions and diplomatic pressure were its preferred course.

Trump is due to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G20 meeting in Germany this week.

Russia and China joined diplomatic forces on Tuesday and called for North Korea to suspend its ballistic missile program in return for a moratorium on large-scale military exercises by the United States and South Korea.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the joint statement showed the international community wanted dialogue and not antagonistic voices, as he also urged North Korea not to violate U.N. Security Council resolutions.

"We hope relevant counties can maintain calm and restraint, and not take steps that might worsen tensions on the peninsula," Geng told a daily briefing.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries conducted a ballistic missile test early on Wednesday in a show of force on the east coast of the Korean peninsula. The South said the drill aimed to showcase the ability to strike at the North's leadership if necessary.

"It's discouraging that the Chinese (and Russians) are still calling for 'restraint by all sides', despite the fact that their client state, North Korea, has cast aside all restraint and is sprinting for the finish line in demonstrating a nuclear-armed ICBM capability," said Daniel Russel, formerly Washington’s top East Asia diplomat, now a diplomat in residence at the Asia Society Policy Institute.

North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, is impervious to the pressures the world would normally place on a rogue nation.  The North is already sanctioned to the hilt – the U.S. and South Korea have no more cards to play in that game.  Better enforcement of existing sanctions, including penalizing countries that allow North Korean citizens to work in their countries, would hardly cause a ripple.

Nothing, it seems, will deter the North from developing its nuclear program.  That includes pressure by China.

Experts agreed that Beijing has been reluctant to apply harsh economic pressure on North Korea because they fear it could destabilize the region. If the current Pyongyang regime were to fall, it could have several effects that might unsettle China, the experts told CNBC on Wednesday.

Josef Jelinek, senior China analyst at the Frontier Strategy Group, told "The Rundown" that "the last thing China wants is an unified Korean Peninsula friendly to the U.S."

He added it could potentially mean U.S. troops at its borders with North Korea. At the same time, a regime collapse could lead to the "potential chaos of refugees destabilizing its own region."

Jelinek said some parties may have 'miscalculated' what China was prepared to do to stop Pyongyang.

"What we've actually seen was a toning down of rhetoric over the last few months," Jelinek said. "President Trump genuinely believed that Xi Jinping would be able to do something to rein in North Korea and I think what's happened is there's been a miscalculation."

I think the time has come to starve North Korea into submission.  Currently, the U.S. allows food aid to North Korea, and China is the largest exporter of food to the Kim regime.  Would it be too cruel to deliberately starve the North Korean population?  As you would imagine, a cutoff in food aid would not inconvenience the elites of the regime.  But many of the North Korean people are already thought to be on the cusp of starvation. 

Unfortunately, China sells North Korea food not only because of the cash it brings in.  It is in the best interest of the Chinese to keep the North Koreans from starving.  Otherwise, a massive flood of hungry refugees will stream over the border, severely complicating Chinese control.

But a cutoff of all food aid from the West would certainly put unwanted pressure on Kim to come to the negotiating table.  Would that do any good?  Before we took military action to take out Kim's nuclear and ICBM program, a last-gasp effort to resolve the issues peacefully would engender support for the military option if it came down to it.

It's a thin hope that talks coupled with the pressure of a loss of food assistance would alter the North's nuclear policies.  But right now, it's the least bad of all the options on the table for the president.

North Korea successfully tested a multi-stage ICBM that many experts believe has the range to hit Alaska and perhaps even major population centers on the west coast of the U.S.

The missile, Hwasong-14, flew 580 miles, reaching an altitude of 1,741 miles in its 39 minutes of flight.  The flight profile suggested that the missile had a range of about 5,000 miles and perhaps as much as 7,100 miles.

Alarm bells went off all over the world when the test became public.  The planet's most paranoid, unstable regime is now in possession of a weapon that, once the technological hurdles of marrying a nuclear warhead to the missile are overcome, threatens tens of millions of lives.

Without exaggeration, the test is a game-changer.

Reuters:

The U.N. Security Council, currently chaired by China, will hold an emergency meeting on the matter at 3 p.m. EDT (1900 GMT) on Wednesday, following a request by the United States, Japan and South Korea.

Diplomats say Beijing has not been fully enforcing existing international sanctions on its neighbor, and has resisted tougher measures, such as an oil embargo, bans on the North Korean airline and guest workers, and measures against Chinese banks and other firms doing business with the North.

A 2015 U.N. document estimated that more than 50,000 North Korean workers were overseas earning currencies for the regime, with the vast majority in China and Russia.

North Korea appeared to have used a Chinese truck, originally sold for hauling timber, but later converted for military use, to transport and erect the missile on Tuesday.

Trump has indicated he is running out of patience with Beijing's efforts to rein in North Korea. His administration has said all options are on the table, military included, but suggested those would be a last resort and that sanctions and diplomatic pressure were its preferred course.

Trump is due to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G20 meeting in Germany this week.

Russia and China joined diplomatic forces on Tuesday and called for North Korea to suspend its ballistic missile program in return for a moratorium on large-scale military exercises by the United States and South Korea.

In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the joint statement showed the international community wanted dialogue and not antagonistic voices, as he also urged North Korea not to violate U.N. Security Council resolutions.

"We hope relevant counties can maintain calm and restraint, and not take steps that might worsen tensions on the peninsula," Geng told a daily briefing.

The U.S. and South Korean militaries conducted a ballistic missile test early on Wednesday in a show of force on the east coast of the Korean peninsula. The South said the drill aimed to showcase the ability to strike at the North's leadership if necessary.

"It's discouraging that the Chinese (and Russians) are still calling for 'restraint by all sides', despite the fact that their client state, North Korea, has cast aside all restraint and is sprinting for the finish line in demonstrating a nuclear-armed ICBM capability," said Daniel Russel, formerly Washington’s top East Asia diplomat, now a diplomat in residence at the Asia Society Policy Institute.

North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, is impervious to the pressures the world would normally place on a rogue nation.  The North is already sanctioned to the hilt – the U.S. and South Korea have no more cards to play in that game.  Better enforcement of existing sanctions, including penalizing countries that allow North Korean citizens to work in their countries, would hardly cause a ripple.

Nothing, it seems, will deter the North from developing its nuclear program.  That includes pressure by China.

Experts agreed that Beijing has been reluctant to apply harsh economic pressure on North Korea because they fear it could destabilize the region. If the current Pyongyang regime were to fall, it could have several effects that might unsettle China, the experts told CNBC on Wednesday.

Josef Jelinek, senior China analyst at the Frontier Strategy Group, told "The Rundown" that "the last thing China wants is an unified Korean Peninsula friendly to the U.S."

He added it could potentially mean U.S. troops at its borders with North Korea. At the same time, a regime collapse could lead to the "potential chaos of refugees destabilizing its own region."

Jelinek said some parties may have 'miscalculated' what China was prepared to do to stop Pyongyang.

"What we've actually seen was a toning down of rhetoric over the last few months," Jelinek said. "President Trump genuinely believed that Xi Jinping would be able to do something to rein in North Korea and I think what's happened is there's been a miscalculation."

I think the time has come to starve North Korea into submission.  Currently, the U.S. allows food aid to North Korea, and China is the largest exporter of food to the Kim regime.  Would it be too cruel to deliberately starve the North Korean population?  As you would imagine, a cutoff in food aid would not inconvenience the elites of the regime.  But many of the North Korean people are already thought to be on the cusp of starvation. 

Unfortunately, China sells North Korea food not only because of the cash it brings in.  It is in the best interest of the Chinese to keep the North Koreans from starving.  Otherwise, a massive flood of hungry refugees will stream over the border, severely complicating Chinese control.

But a cutoff of all food aid from the West would certainly put unwanted pressure on Kim to come to the negotiating table.  Would that do any good?  Before we took military action to take out Kim's nuclear and ICBM program, a last-gasp effort to resolve the issues peacefully would engender support for the military option if it came down to it.

It's a thin hope that talks coupled with the pressure of a loss of food assistance would alter the North's nuclear policies.  But right now, it's the least bad of all the options on the table for the president.

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