North Korea on Tuesday warned that the US decision to fly B-1B Lancer strategic bombers over the area in an exercise has put the two countries on the brink of a nuclear war.

Meanwhile, work continues at the North Korea nuclear test facility Punggye-ri which now seems to be in a holding pattern. North Korea appears to have imported a submersible barge of Russia design to further test its Pukkuksong-1 or KN-11 Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM). A real submarine-based missile capability would give North Korea a limited but survivable second strike capability key to deterrence. The US Air Force is reportedly preparing to conduct a second test launch of a Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) from Vandenberg Air Force in California on Wednesday. On Saturday, Kim Jong-un test-fired a KN-17 Medium-Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) that was later disabled while in-flight. There are unconfirmed reports that the KN-17 MRBM was on a trajectory bound for Russia likely by accident. As well, some observers believe that the North Koreans have developed a maneuverable re-entry vehicle for the KN-17’s warhead in a very worrying development, and that it is not for anti-ship purposes. China is under further pressure to slap an oil embargo on North Korea and has reportedly said that it might be agreeable. China has demanded that the US pull its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system geared to protect South Korea from the North’s ballistic missile attack from the South.

But the most interesting development is US President Donald Trump’s reported willingness to meet with the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, under the ‘right circumstances.’ A bi-lateral meeting long demanded by North Korea would be a major reversal of US policy over almost two decades. Given weeks of bellicose comments by each side and a military build-up in the region by US, it appears as a real turn-around in events. It makes one wonder what intelligence might have come into US hands about the North that provoked the change in policy. One suggestion is that the US has concluded that North Korea has miniaturized a nuclear weapon for use in a warhead, and that it is close to an ICBM that can reach the US. The bi-lateral talks offer might also be part of a narrative that ends in an American pre-emptive strike on North Korea, where the US can tell the world, we even offered talks and Kim Jong-un refused, leaving us with no option, but to strike.

#THAAD #Trump #KimJongun #Russia #ICBM #SLBM #MRBM #US

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