Get ready for more fireworks on the Korean Peninsula — and perhaps a rapid arms race, too. South Korea warned this morning that the Kim regime in the north have another missile being readied on the launching pad, and this one may be another ICBM:
South Korea’s Defense Ministry said on Monday that North Korea appeared to be planning another missile launch, possibly of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to show off its claimed ability to target the United States with nuclear weapons.
The South fired missiles into the sea on Monday to simulate an attack on North Korea’s main nuclear test site, a day after Pyongyang detonated its largest nuclear test explosion to date, drawing international condemnation.
The threatened launch test, coupled with the most recent nuclear test, prompted the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting this morning. US Ambassador Nikki Haley warned the UNSC that “the time for half-measures is over,” and that we have reached the last moment for diplomatic efforts:
Nikki Haley on North Korea: "We have kicked the can down the road long enough. There is no more road left." https://t.co/t7YxAvM3zH
— NBC News (@NBCNews) September 4, 2017
France’s envoy followed up by declaring that North Korea had gone from a regional threat to a global threat, and also urged more comprehensive action by the UNSC. What can they do, however? Short of war, nothing appears to have been effective — not Moon’s “Moonshine” engagement policy, not economic sanctions, not even the muscle-flexing by the US and its allies in the region. Russia has recently become more engaged in the conflict, but they want all sides to stand down and for the US and South Korea to stop holding military exercises. When an implacable enemy is preparing nuclear weapons for ICBMs, that seems like a suicidal suggestion, and Haley derided it as such in her speech this morning.
South Korea has had to readjust its approach, too. Moon Jae-in won election thanks to a scandal in the previous conservative government, and also due to disenchantment with a hard-line approach. Moon promised a policy of engagement and opposition to US efforts to add anti-missile systems. He’s had no success on the former, and what appears to be a complete change of heart on the latter:
Seoul said Monday that it would temporarily deploy four additional launchers of the U.S. THAAD missile defense system, once it finished an environmental impact assessment. That proclamation quickly highlighted the difficulties of unifying other nations around a response to the North Korean threat. …
The South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Monday that Washington and Seoul were also discussing deploying an American aircraft carrier and strategic bombers to the region.
Moon specifically opposed the THAAD deployment that Park Geun-hye and Donald Trump rushed in before the election, but he’s become a believer in the four months since. He’s facing significant political blowback from the failure of his engagement promises, Reuters reports, thanks to a complete lack of results:
Rebuked by U.S. President Donald Trump, Moon is facing growing calls at home to change course and take a tougher line against North Korea, even from his core support base of young liberals, according to hundreds of comments posted online.
Moon, who swept to power after winning a May 9 election, remains hugely popular but his policy of pursuing both pressure and dialogue with the North is now under scrutiny. …
South Korea’s conservative opposition parties said the Moon government’s expectations about North Korea were unrealistic and isolating the country from its allies.
“While the Moon Jae-in government made appeasement gestures and haggled for dialogue despite the North’s continued provocations, we have become a nuclear hostage,” a senior Liberal Korea Party member, Kim Tae-heum, said on Monday.
Trump has threatened to cut off all trade with anyone who trades with North Korea, a threat to which Haley alluded in her speech. Not surprisingly, the Kim regime’s main trading partner objected:
A foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, criticized Trump’s stance as unfair to Beijing.
“What is definitely unacceptable to us is that on the one hand we work so hard to peacefully resolve this issue and on the other hand our interests are subject to sanctions and jeopardized,” Geng said at a regular news briefing. “This is unfair.”
Such an approach would be drastic if applied to China, from which the United States imports goods worth about $40 billion a month.
A trade war beats a shooting war, if it comes down to that. And it’s rapidly coming down to that, thanks to Beijing’s failure to rein in their client state in Pyongyang.