North Korea's brinksmanship is fraught with danger. Trump is not Obama.
On March 2nd, I warned in a commentary entitled, “Be Prepared for a North Korea That Does Something Irretrievable Stupid and Dangerous In The Next Month” and it appears as though we are now on the precipice of an irretrievably stupid and dangerous act by Kim Jong-un in the form of a new nuclear test.
The commentary had referenced the fact that North Korea had carried out two nuclear tests and 24 Ballistic Missile launches last year. It also referenced that in February, North Korea test-fired the KN-11 Pukguksong-2 Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) that uses solid rocket fuel which allows for faster fueling before launch and less detection time on its march to an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) that can reach the US. Additionally it noted the assassination the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Malaysia using VX nerve gas, a weapon of mass destruction. Not covered in the commentary are the events of earlier this week, when North Korea, test-fired four Ballistic Missiles, as of yet unidentified, but appear to be Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM), to within 200 kilometers of the Japanese coast. The unidentified missiles flew 620 miles before touching down in the Sea of Japan or almost 1000 kilometers. The simultaneous launch of four Ballistic Missiles was a nuclear-warfighting drill, geared to target and overwhelm, American and Japanese air and missile defenses, in the event of war. You might think that this is sending an irretrievably stupid and dangerous signal to the US and its allies begging for pre-emption, but we would be wrong.
Startlingly, in both an irretrievably stupid and dangerous act, it was revealed this week in commercial satellite imagery, that North Korea was preparing its Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site for a new nuclear test. The satellite imagery dated March 7th shows preparations and activity around the test site’s North Portal, administrative area, and command and control center. When carried out, this would represent the sixth test at the Punggye-ri facility, and would indicate that the center is capable of executing a test on short notice, once a nuclear weapon is deployed to the tunnels under the area. The imagery further shows that equipment and supplies seen earlier had been replaced by a large shipping container. Also revealed are tracks left in the snow that demonstrate the movement from the main storage area to the tunnel. Reports also suggest that the North is close to or has miniaturized a nuclear weapon, key to developing nuclear warheads for its missiles, and the UN has warned that sanctions have failed to halt the North Korean’s advance to nuclear power. All experts seemingly agree that as the North Korean arsenal grows so too will Kim Jong-un in his rash and cavalier behavior with some warning that an North Korean ICBM is only a few years away.
A pending nuclear test in the next month or so, during the two-month long, joint US-South Korean military exercises and aftermath, is likely why China is signaling through a series of desperate diplomatic efforts that it no longer has any hold on the North and that the US needs to engage the Kim Jong-un regime in direct talks. China has warned that Kim Jong-un and the Trump administration are on a collision course, which means China is now backing away. Reports are suggesting that both Japan and South Korea are looking at options for pre-emption. Rumors are swirling that President Trump is considering deploying B-52 strategic bombers to the troubled region. Additionally, it has been reported, but not confirmed, that SEAL Team Six and Delta Force have been readied to carry out a decapitation strike on the North Korean leadership and that armed drones have been moved into South Korea. Today, when asked on a couple of occasions about whether or not he was concerned by North Korea, the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, refused comment. Lastly, the State Department cautioned that the US was taking defensive measures against North Korea, ahead of Tillerson’s upcoming Asia tour.
North Korea is now standing into danger, its traditional game of brinksmanship is one that is fraught with danger, and hinged on deterrence, and predictability of an opponent. President Donald J. Trump is not Barak Obama.