eople are understandably preoccupied with the threat from North Korea and what to do about it. But with the polyvalent perversity that characterises our modern age – afflicted as it is by the political equivalent of auto-immune disease in which it seeks to destroy its allies while embracing its mortal enemies – many in the west continue to downplay or ignore the far greater threat to the world from North Korea’s partner in crime, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
It’s not just that, as with North Korea today so with Iran tomorrow; just as “negotiation” was supposed to persuade Pyongyang to park its nuclear weapons programme only for us to find to our apparent surprise that it has now tested yet another nuclear device, so the “negotiated” Iran deal will result before long in our finding to our apparent surprise that it has moved from being the world’s number one terrorist threat to being the world’s number one nuclear terrorist threat.
It’s also not just that Iran and North Korea are working hand in glove in their infernal joint enterprise (although with very different philosophies) to develop the nuclear weapons by which they can either blackmail, attack or destroy the west or commit a further genocide against the Jews; that Iranian scientists and military brass have been reliably tracked to North Korea inspecting or witnesing its nuclear weapons programme development; and that almost certainly Tehran has outsourced some if not much of that programme to Pyongyang.
No, what reveals the west to be truly pathological in its apparent desire to commit suicide is that even now it downplays or flat-out denies the nature and extent of the threat posed to it by Iran; downplays or denies the way in which the west has helped immeasurably empower the most dangerous state on the planet and continues to do so; and still downplays or denies not just that Iran is a potential threat but that it is already responsible for killing untold numbers of westerners, both civilians and military forces including many British and American soldiers in Iraq, in its self-declared, almost five-decade war against the free world.
President Trump announced on Monday that “the United States is designating North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.” The designation, he said, “will impose further sanctions and penalties on North Korea and related persons, and supports our maximum pressure campaign to isolate the murderous regime that you’ve all been reading about and, in some cases, writing about.” North Korea is joining Iran, Sudan and Syria as designated state sponsors of terrorism.
The Treasury Department will be announcing additional sanctions on Tuesday, which President Trump claimed would “be the highest level of sanctions by the time it’s finished over a two-week period.”
According to the State Department’s website, countries determined to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism are designated pursuant to three laws: the Export Administration Act, the Arms Export Control Act, and the Foreign Assistance Act. Such a designation results in restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance, a ban on defense exports and sales, certain controls over exports of dual use items, and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions. However, North Korea has little to lose in those respects, given that it is already so heavily sanctioned by the United States that there is a lack of any direct trade with or assistance from the United States today. What is important is that, as the State Department’s website explains, the designation “also implicates other sanctions laws that penalize persons and countries engaging in certain trade with state sponsors.” The latter would provide President Trump with an additional tool to use in imposing secondary sanctions on countries or firms doing business with North Korea. China is undoubtedly taking notice.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Uncertainty remains about North Korea’s technological maturity and ability to launch nuclear warheads that could hit the US homeland, even after its recent success at launching the Hwasong-14 missile and the conducting of its most powerful nuclear test yet. The first-stage engine of the Hwasong-14 is a critical component in its possible operation as an intercontinental ballistic missile, but there are questions about how Pyongyang came by this engine, how many it possesses, and whether or not it can produce them on its own. These uncertainties are troubling not only with regard to North Korea, but also with regard to Iran. They have sobering implications about the possibility of monitoring and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction worldwide.
The success of the two test launches by North Korea of the intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Hwasong-14 on July 4 and 28, as well as the powerful nuclear test on September 3, surprised and shocked the world, especially the US. This is because they suggest an eventual scenario in which Pyongyang is able to strike the American continent with nuclear weapons, a capability to which it might already be very close.
To this was added The Washington Post report of August 8, according to which the American intelligence community believes North Korea has successfully developed a miniaturized nuclear weapon that can be installed in the warhead of a ballistic missile. This achievement means Pyongyang is crossing the threshold to becoming a nuclear power. Contributing to the unease are Pyongyang’s fiery declarations, including a statement on October 16 by North Korea’s deputy ambassador to the UN that “the entire US mainland is within our firing range.”
Reporters continue scratching their heads about what PresidentTrum p meant when he spoke of the “calm before the storm” Thursday as he was hosting a dinner for military commanders and their spouses. It seems clear to me that he was sending a powerful message to North Korea and Iran: change your behavior now, or prepare to face new but unspecified painful consequences.
North Korea and Iran are taking the measure of President Trump to see how far they can push him and how much they can get away with. The North Koreans continue testing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles and threaten to launch a nuclear attack on America and our allies that could kills millions. Iran is likely engaging in activities that could contribute to the design and development of its own nuclear explosive device.
If these worrisome actions by the two rogue nations persist, there will be a storm. And as candidate Trump said during his campaign for the White House, he will not tell our enemies what kind of storm to expect — only that he will not allow current trends that endanger our national security and that of our allies to continue unabated.
The president must make some difficult decisions: whether to continue to rely on economic sanctions that don’t appear to be working against North Korea; and whether to refuse to certify Iranian compliance with the bad nuclear deal and demand that additional constraints be placed on the Islamic Republic’s dangerous and provocative activities.
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But while the rhetoric has focused on North Korea, the Central Intelligence Agency is just as worried about China.
CIA analysts say the North Korean tests have heightened the concerns the U.S. has about managing the rise of China, which sees the conflict as a way of keeping the U.S. off-balance in Asia while maintaining its influence over its immediate neighbors.
“It is, to us, not just an immediate national security threat,” the CIA’s Michael Collins, deputy assistant director for East Asia Mission Center, said last week at a national security conference at George Washington University. “It is forcing us to think about the long-term management of China.”
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If North Korea launched a nuclear attack, the death toll would be costly: perhaps as bad as 2.1 million deaths in Tokyo and Seoul alone.
In the event of an “unthinkable” escalation, casualties in the East Asian capitals of key American allies would be catastrophic, including as many as 7.7 million injuries, according to a new report from 38 North, a North Korea analysis group based at Johns Hopkins University’s U.S.-Korea Institute.
Since 2011, North Korea has carried out 98 ballistic missile tests and six underground nuclear tests overall. The most recent, on Sept. 3, clocked in around 120 kilotons and North Korea was quick to claim it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb. The tests have also revealed the isolated state’s increasing technical sophistication: on July 4 and July 28, North Korean state media said it had tested intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) capable of reaching the mainland U.S.
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In March 2009, North Korean soldiers captured journalist Euna Lee and her colleague Laura Ling while they were shooting a documentary on the border with China. The courts sentenced them to 12 years of hard labor, but American diplomats eventually negotiated their release. In this surprising, deeply human talk, Lee shares her experience living as the enemy in a detention center for 140 days — and the tiny gestures of humanity from her guards that sustained her.
This talk was presented to a local audience at TEDxIndianaUniversity, an independent event. TED editors featured it among our selections on the home page.