North Korea may be Trump’s first crisis.
In a New Year’s announcement, North Korean dictator Kim Jung Un stated that his nation was on the verge of launching its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) – a missile capable of both carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching the United States.
This threat could President-elect Donald Trump’s first major foreign policy challenge, coming as it does after nuclear bomb tests of varying success by the North Koreans.
In response Trump tweeted that the launch “won’t happen.” In another tweet he chided China for not doing more to forestall the North Korea threat.
While acknowledging that American military experts doubt that North Korea is technologically ready to carry out its implied threat, CNN reported, “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.
Charles Krauthammer said that if Kim’s boast is true, North Korea would be the first “insane regime” with nuclear weapons.
But what can’t be forgotten is that just last week, an American company, Strategic Sentinel published photographs of a newly discovered North Korea missile launch site.
Satellite images (Source: Strategic Sentinel) of North Korea shows a structure that appears to be a missile silo similar to one in Iran pic.twitter.com/KRWfWfJLW5
— The Voice of America (@VOANews) December 29, 2016
What Strategic Sentinel pointed out is that the construction of North Korean missile site resembles a known one in Iran. While the company says that no conclusion can be drawn by the photograph, it is a reminder that North Korea and Iran has extensive military scientific ties in developing ballistic missiles and possibly nuclear technology.
Ilan Berman wrote in the National Interest in August 2015.
As long ago as 1985, the two countries had already launched cooperative missile development, with Iran helping to underwrite North Korea’s production of 300-kilometer-range Scud-B missiles. Their interaction expanded in the 1990s, when Iran and North Korea began joint development of Iran’s Shahab medium-range missile, which is closely based on North Korea’s own nuclear-capable No Dong.
Indeed, North Korea’s arsenal is the inspiration behind most of Iran’s ballistic-missile capabilities—including the Shahab 3 and Shahab 4, now in service, and its longer-range Shahab 5 and 6 variants, currently in development. And the collaboration continues today; the two nations are believed to be jointly working on a nuclear-capable missile of intercontinental range.
Two weeks ago investigative journalist Claudia Rosett wrote for Forbes that Sen. Ted Cruz (R – Texas) is trying to find out what the administration knows about North Korean nuclear collaboration with Iran.
In particular, Cruz had a question for Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Referring to the period since the Iran nuclear deal took effect on Jan. 16, Cruz asked: “Has the U.S. intelligence community observed any possible nuclear collaboration between Iran and North Korea…”?
That’s one of the huge questions looming behind the Iran nuclear deal, officially titled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which President Obama has been urging President-elect Donald Trump to preserve.
It’s a question that deserves an immediate answer. If there has been any such nuclear teamwork between Tehran and rogue, nuclear-testing Pyongyang, that would be a violation by Iran that should immediately blow up the Iran deal — which the Obama White House currently touts on its web site as “The Historic Deal that Will Prevent Iran from Acquiring a Nuclear Weapon.”
So the Kim’s threat doesn’t just reveal a possible threat against the United States from an insane regime, but it could be a sign that a second insane regime is very much involved in developing that threat, despite a deal that was supposed to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.
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