bruce klingner again

NK offers ‘extended middle finger’ to Trump
Nicole Gaouette, CNN News, May 15 2017

FASCHINGSTEIN – NK staged a brazen show of defiance against the Trump administration’s attempts to curb its nuclear ambitions, testing a missile Sunday that it said could reach Pindo territory. While given to wild hyperbole, analysts said the launch is the country’s most successful to date and marks a significant step in its quest to build a nuclear-armed ballistic missile that could reach continental Pindostan. They add that the development could raise tensions between Faschingstein and Beijing, and shows just how hard it is to curtail Pyongyang. The missile test came despite new SK Pres Moon’s warm overtures to NK and as China was holding an international trade summit. Pyongyang also launched its missile amid continuing speculation that Pres Trump may take military action to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. Bruce Klingner of the Heritage Foundation said:

In a way, it’s an extended middle finger to Trump and to the newly elected Moon Jae-in and to China. The missile landed very near Russia and the display of disrespect might have been meant to include Pres Putin as well. If it was a signal, it could have been directed at any of the neighbors. It’s yet another violation of UNSCRs.

The Trump administration has made NK a central focus in recent weeks, calling for new economic sanctions on Pyongyang, holding a special UNSC meeting about the threat it poses, and staging shows of military force in the region. While experts say Pyongyang is still some time away from actually being able to strike the Pindosi mainland, the missile test was clearly meant to put Trump on notice. Pyongyang said the missile it launched could carry a nuclear warhead and warned that the Pindosi mainland is now within “sighting range for a strike.” Trump’s April remark that “all options are on the table” with North Korea has raised tensions in the region and drawn rebukes from China and Russia. On Apr 27, Trump warned that “major conflict” was possible if diplomatic efforts failed. The Washington-based North Korea monitoring project 38 North said:

Pyongyang’s Sunday launch could be seen as a direct response. Given speculation over the past months about the possibility of military action by the Trump administration to prevent Pyongyang from acquiring such weapons, the possible testing of ICBM subsystems in this low-key manner may be a NK hedge against the possibility of such action. (The test) represents a level of performance never before seen from a North Korean missile. While the test showed technological advances, NK isn’t yet able to put Pindosi cities at risk tomorrow, or any time this year.

But Victor Cha, a senior adviser at CSIS, said analysis shows that the missile could possibly reach Guam. NK state media reported that the missile, called a Hwasong-12, flew about 787 km, soaring 2100 km high before falling into the East Sea, or Sea of Japan. Cha noted in an analysis it could possibly reach Guam. He wrote:

(It seems it was) purposely launched at a steep angle and that the real range of the missile if shot at a normal angle could be upwards of 4,500 km. This latest missile launch demonstrates that we have once again underestimated NK’s nuclear and missile capabilities.

Asked about the NK claim that it could strike Pindostan, a State Dept spox said the agency would “not comment on matters of intelligence” and added:

We call on the DPRK to refrain from provocative, destabilizing actions and rhetoric, and to make the strategic choice to fulfill its international obligations and commitments.

In the last few weeks, Faschingstein has responded to the NK threat by sending a Navy strike group to the Korean peninsula, staging long-planned military exercises with SK and Japan, and docking a nuclear submarine in an SK port. The Trump administration has also asked China to exercise its diplomatic and economic influence to force NK to change. At the Apr 28 UNSC meeting on NK, Rex Tillerson said:

China, accounting for 90% of North Korean trade, China alone has economic leverage over Pyongyang that is unique, and its role is therefore particularly important.

And Trump has publicly courted China’s Pres Xi as an ally in the effort against Pyongyang, boasting of the good relationship the two have, even as his extended family has pursued business interests in China. Klingner, a former deputy division chief for Korea at the CIA, said:

This latest NK test now increases the pressure on Pres Trump to toughen the conciliatory course he’s taken with China over Pyongyang. Since his early April summit meeting with Xi at Mar-a-Lago estate, he’s adopted a more effusive stance toward China, lauding them for doing more on NK than they ever have before. But NK’s behavior hasn’t changed and China isn’t getting as tough on Pyongyang as it could. It may be time to apply sanctions on the many Chinese businesses that work with the regime. Pres Trump should end his restraint on imposing stronger sanctions on Pyongyang, as well as secondary sanctions on Chinese businesses. If Beijing doesn’t truly deliver it’s time to mark the expiration date on that deal.

The test also demonstrates how hard it is to slow Pyongyang’s progress. To underscore that point, North Korea’s ambassador to China made clear on Monday that his country has no intention of stopping its work. Ambassador Ji Jae Ryong blamed Pindostan at a press conference at the North Korean embassy in Beijing, saying:

(Testing will continue), anytime, anywhere, upon the decision of the supreme leadership. Just like our previous actions to strengthen our nuclear capabilities, our ICBM (sic – RB) test was also in response to the nuclear dangers and threats posed by Pindostan and its followers as they implement their policies. It is a normal step in the process.

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