North Korea has been steadily working to improve its missile and weapons capability
Pyongyang's new boast about an ICBM that could hit the US is particularly troubling
President-elect Donald Trump had a message Monday for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his latest missile threats.
“North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won’t happen!” Trump tweeted.
Trump quickly followed that up with a charge that China was doing nothing to help the US cope with the rogue nation.
“China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the U.S. in totally one-sided trade, but won’t help with North Korea. Nice!” Trump wrote.
The President-elect launched his verbal missiles after the autocratic 32-year-old North Korean leader declared in a televised New Year’s Day speech that his military is on the brink of testing its first intercontinental ballistic missile: a rocket that can be equipped with nuclear weapons and is powerful enough to reach any part of the US.
A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry responded Tuesday to Trump, saying, “China’s efforts in resolving the North Korea nuclear issue have been obvious to all. Our contribution has been widely recognized by the international community. As the host of the six-nation talks, our efforts and achievements have been clear to all.”
Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program (EANP) said Trump’s tweets were “foolish, but probably harmless.”
“I think North Korea will probably test the KN-08 (intercontinental ballistic missile) this year, no matter what Trump tweets,” he said in an email to CNN.
While US officials and military experts doubt many of Kim’s boasts, Trump may very well have to deal with an ICBM test and confront the danger Pyongyang poses to international stability.
The hermit nation poses a unique threat. While the nuclear nations of China and Russia are both pushing back against US power across the globe, they are more integrated into the international system and neither is as erratic or threatening. This all moves Pyongyang to Trump’s front burner as a simmering problem that might soon boil over.
Kim declared Sunday that his goal was “to cope against the vicious threats for nuclear war by the Imperialists,” a sinister nod to the US and its Asian allies.
Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway was asked on “Good Morning America” on Tuesday what the President-elect intended to do to stop North Korea’s nukes.
“He’s not stated that publicly, and he won’t before he’s inaugurated,” Conway said.
“But we do know that there are sanctions that are possible,” she added. “They have not always worked. I think China would have to have a significant role here as well. But he’s putting North Korea on notice through this tweet and other statements that this won’t happen. He, as President of the United States, wants to stand between them and their missile capabilities, which experts say could be deployed to reach Seattle almost immediately.”
North Korea has been steadily working to improve its missile and weapons capability, conducting a fifth nuclear test in September.
American analysts say there are still questions about Pyongyang’s claims of technological advances – particularly to key elements required to deliver a nuclear payload – but the picture is still worrisome.