Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

North Korea nuclear threat Trump's first challenge
By Dave Clark, Nicolas REVISE
Washington (AFP) Jan 3, 2017

North Korea's determined quest for a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland is the first major US foreign policy challenge of the Donald Trump era.

And, less than three weeks before he takes office, Trump has already plunged into these most dangerous of waters with a warning to unpredictable dictator Kim Jong-un.

Kim marked the New Year by announcing that North Korea plans to test launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) of the kind he would need to threaten US soil.

The US president-elect responded with one of his trademark Twitter taunts, vowing to halt Pyongyang in its tracks.

"North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the US," he declared. "It won't happen!"

Trump didn't provide any context for his promise but, if Kim continues to plough ahead despite the sanctions already imposed on his regime, the endgame is ominous.

"Has our next commander-in-chief issued, 18 days before his inauguration, a pledge that the US will wage pre-emptive war against the DPRK?" asked Strobe Talbott.

Talbott, president of the Brookings Institution and a former deputy secretary of state, spoke for many worried experts who fear Trump has limited diplomatic options.

US President Barack Obama's outgoing administration has pursued a policy of UN-backed sanctions targeting Kim's regime, and a call for six-party negotiations.

- Inevitable war? -

These talks would see North Korea come to the table with China, the US, South Korea, Japan and Russia to negotiate an end to the stand-off and a nuclear-free peninsula.

But, aside from China, outside states have little leverage over the pariah regime and Beijing opposes any stronger measures that might threaten to destabilize its neighbor.

Trump suggests an ICBM in the hands of an aggressive North Korean despot -- still technically at war with the United States since the 1950-53 war -- would be intolerable.

So, if sanctions don't work, is war inevitable?

Perhaps not yet, but the US military -- which has just under 30,000 troops in South Korea -- has stepped up planning for any eventual operation.

"It is the threat that keeps me awake at night," a senior defense official said. "Primarily because we don't know what the dear leader in North Korea is really after."

The senior official, speaking last month on condition of anonymity said US commanders have been reviewing options for 70 years but that the ICBM threat has focused minds.

Robert Einhorn, who until 2013 was State Department special adviser for non-proliferation and arms control, told AFP that Kim's threat to test an ICBM was not new.

"Whether they can deliver it is another story," he said.

"Many experts believe that the North may be two or three years away from having the ability confidently to deliver a nuclear payload on the continental US."

China does not want North Korea to join the small club of nations that can launch nuclear weapons half-way round the planet, but it doesn't want the regime to collapse either.

If sanctions cause Kim's authoritarian state to fall apart, China could face millions of refugees and see its neighbor Korea reunified as a US military ally.

Some once argued that Kim and his equally isolated predecessors were merely brandishing the nuclear threat to force the United States into direct negotiations.

But experts now see the pursuit of nuclear missiles as a strategic choice to deter South Korean or US aggression.

"I don't think these programs are any longer a bargaining chip. If they ever were," Einhorn said, adding that Trump will have to decide whether to seek direct contact.

- Trump unpredictable -

As with the 2015 Iran deal, any talks would have a multilateral veneer but the key elements would have to be worked out between US and North Korean diplomats.

For Einhorn, Trump will have to decide "whether the strategy will be pressure alone or whether pressure will have to go hand in hand with negotiations."

Are plans being laid for any of this? It's hard to tell from a single president-elect tweet, but absent any new plan, fears of war will continue to build.

"Kim Jong-un is the more dangerous," Einhorn said. "But the more unpredictable, at this stage, may be Donald Trump."

Comment on this article using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only


Related Links
Learn about nuclear weapons doctrine and defense at
Learn about missile defense at
All about missiles at
Learn about the Superpowers of the 21st Century at

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Previous Report
Five questions on China-N. Korea relations
Beijing (AFP) Jan 3, 2017
US president-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly called out China for doing too little to help stop North Korea's nuclear programme, and on Monday he took to Twitter again to blast Beijing. "China has been taking out massive amounts of money & wealth from the US in totally one-sided trade, but won't help with North Korea," he tweeted. "Nice!" His comments come a day after North Korean lea ... read more

Tech show looks beyond 'smart,' to new 'realities'

'Passengers' and the real-life science of deep space travel

NASA Readies for Major Orion Milestones in 2017

India achieves advances multiple space systems in 2016

Russia won't be leaving Baikonur anytime soon

Russia to double number of space launches in 2017

SpaceX concluded accident investigation, to start launching rockets again

SpaceX sets launch date for Falcon 9 RTF

Small Troughs Growing on Mars May Become 'Spiders'

All eyes on Trump over Mars

Opportunity performs several drives to ancient gully

Full go-ahead for building ExoMars 2020

China Space Plan to Develop "Strength and Size"

Beijing's space program soars in 2016

Chinese missile giant seeks 20% of a satellite market

China-made satellites in high demand

Airbus DS and Energia eye new medium-class satellite platform

OneWeb announces key funding form SoftBank Group and other investors

Space as a Driver for Socio-Economic Sustainable Development

SoftBank delivers first $1 bn of Trump pledge, to space firm

Saab, UAE sign radar support deal

Elbit contracted for airborne laser designator work

Scientists create tiny laser using silver nanoparticles

Divide and conquer pattern searching

The blob can learn and teach

Searching a sea of 'noise' to find exoplanets - using only data as a guide

Microlensing Study Suggests Most Common Outer Planets Likely Neptune-mass

Exciting new creatures discovered on ocean floor

Exploring Pluto and the Wild Back Yonder

Juno Captures Jupiter 'Pearl'

Juno Mission Prepares for December 11 Jupiter Flyby

Research Offers Clues About the Timing of Jupiter's Formation

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement