Tag Archives: North Korea and Iran

North Korean Threat Imminent

Past administrations have refrained from making the necessary tough decisions regarding North Korea and Iran, choosing instead to pass the buck to future commanders in chief.  Unfortunately, that future is today.

President Clinton’s policies erroneously sought to dissuade Pyongyang from developing nuclear weapons through food aide. President Obama’s policies ended sanctions and delivered mammoth amounts of cash to Tehran before receiving any guarantees of Iran’s cessation of belligerence, which continues through its banned missile tests. The world now faces the horrifying prospect of a North Korean regime on the verge of being able to launch nuclear missiles to any target on the planet. Iran is North Korea’s partner in the development of atomic weapons and advance missiles.

The latest Hwasong-14 missile launch from North Korea confirms that the Pyongyang regime has successfully attained the capability to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMS.) Experts believe that the rocket used in the launch could reach Alaska, Hawaii, and the states of the Pacific northwest as well as American bases in Guam, South Korea and Japan.  North Korea’s reach may currently extend to the continental U.S. itself, as its recent submarine-launched missile (SLBM) tests may indicate.

America’s ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, has labelled the test “not only dangerous but reckless and irresponsible…It showed that North Korea does not want to be part of a peaceful world. They have cast a dark shadow of conflict on all nations that strive for peace…[the] act came from the same vicious dictator who sent a young college student back home…in a coma … If North Korea will treat an innocent young student the way it treated Otto Warmbier, we should not be surprised if it acts barbarically on a larger scale.”

Ambassador Haley singled out the issue of nations trading with North Korea, a direct response to China’s continued trade with the Pyongyang regime. According to Haley, “Much of the burden of enforcing U.N. sanctions rests with China…We will work with China, we will work with any and every country that believes in peace. But we will not repeat the inadequate approaches of the past that have brought us to this dark day.” President Trump has stated that “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.” In a twitter post, he stated: “Trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40 pct in the first quarter. So much for China working with us – but we had to give it a try!”

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) notes that “China is North Korea’s most important ally, biggest trading partner, and main source of food and energy. It has helped sustain Kim Jong-un’s regime, and has historically opposed harsh international sanctions on North Korea… China’s purchases from its neighbor include minerals, seafood, and manufactured garments. In the first quarter of 2017, China–North Korea trade was up 37.4 percent from the same period in 2016. ‘China is currently North Korea’s only economic backer of any importance,’ writes Nicholas Eberstadt, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute… China, Japan, South Korea, and the United States have provided more than 75 percent of food aid to North Korea since 1995, but donations from all countries except for China have shrunk significantly since the collapse of the Six Party Talks in 2009.”

A Reuters analysis of data released in April by Beijing showed “China’s trade with North Korea grew 37.4 percent in the first quarter this year from the same period in 2016, according to reports in the New York Times and Financial Times. Chinese exports surged 54.5 percent and imports increased 18.4 percent, according to the reports citing China’s General Administration of Customs.

ABC  reports that “Chinese purchases of North Korean iron ore, a key export for the mineral-rich North, rose 34 percent over a year earlier…Chinese oil sales to the North rose 18 percent in the first five months of the year to $35 million…”

The reality is there is very little chance that any action before the international body will be successful, or accomplish anything more than pious statements. Despite their rhetoric, Russia continues to supply advanced arms to Iran, and China continues to prop up the Pyongyang regime.

With no diplomatic solution in sight, and the exceptional and indeed existential danger potentially imminent, military options are being discussed. Those options, however, come at a time when the United States military is at its weakest point in decades due to the Obama-era disinvestment, and when its main adversaries Russia and China are reaping the benefits of massive increases in funding for their armed forces.

According to 38 North, a site specializing in North Korean information, “We had thought that we would have until perhaps early 2020 to prepare for a North Korean ICBM capability, but it turns out they were working on a different timetable. That has serious strategic, diplomatic and political implications for the very near future…US military commanders cannot be 100 percent certain that a war on the Korean peninsula won’t stretch at least as far as Hawaii or Alaska. Soon, US allies will wonder if this is going to affect US commitments to defense and stability in the region. And the US political leadership is going to have to figure out what to do about that.”

The same concern will soon extend to Iranian activities.

The North Korean-Iranian Alliance, Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government concludes its two-part review of the Iranian-North Korean nuclear, missile, and foreign policy alliance

The National Interest has reported “over the past three decades, Iran [and] …North Korea have erected a formidable alliance—the centerpiece of which is cooperation on nuclear and ballistic-missile capabilities. 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. The Islamic Republic has also relied on the DPRK for help with its nuclear program.

Evidence mounts that North Korea and Iran have shared nuclear and missile development, and now appear to be on similar foreign policy paths as well.  In addition to nuclear arms technology sharing, their foreign policies are meshing, as well.

As reported by The Diplomat “In an official statement released on April 29, Pyongyang declared its intention to “mercilessly punish” Israel for offending North Korea’s leaders… hostility toward Israel has been a consistent feature of North Korean foreign policy since the early stages of the Cold War. Under founding leader Kim Il-sung, Pyongyang frequently sought to delegitimize Israel by describing it as a U.S.-backed ‘imperial satellite’…North Korea’s fierce opposition to Israel’s right to exist … has not gone unnoticed in the Arab world. On April 30, Hamas praised the North Korean regime… Israeli policymakers fear a cash-strapped North Korean government could export its technological advances to terrorist organizations with sufficient financial backing…Israeli policymakers are concerned that North Korea’s successful construction of a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile might encourage other states hostile to Israel, like Iran, to conclude that they can develop nuclear deterrents without risking a retaliatory U.S.-led military intervention. This argument is strengthened by the contrasting fates of the DPRK regime, which has resisted international pressure to disarm, and Libya’s Gaddafi, who voluntarily surrendered WMD capacity in 2003. [but was inexplicably attacked and overthrown with the assistance of the Obama Administration]

AOL news noted that “The Pentagon is reportedly seeing further signs of cooperation between Iran and North Korea over their missile programs—something Fox News says, ‘nonproliferation experts have long suspected.’ According to the network, such evidence includes similarly designed submarines, missiles, and launch approaches.

In May, Fox News noted that “When Iran attempted to launch a cruise missile from a “midget” submarine…Pentagon officials saw more evidence of North Korean influence in the Islamic Republic – with intelligence reports saying the submarine was based on a Pyongyang design, the same type that sank a South Korean warship in 2010.

Asia Times calls the relationship between the two regimes a “spiritual alliance…during [a] parade in Pyongyang…standing just two men apart from North Korean leader Kim Jong-eun, was an Iranian general. There was just one other foreign dignitary who was atop the tribune alongside Jong-eun and his general staff, Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao. The Iranian general was the only military attache. Iranian-North Korean relations expanded after the Islamic Revolution in Iran, but the relationship truly came into its own after the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88). During this conflict, the DPRK was Iran’s main source of arms, with arms imports from North Korea comprising 40% of their total arms imports…Hung Son-Muk, former North Korean ambassador to Tehran, once stated: ‘We truly consider the advances and achievements of the revolutionary Iranian nation…as our own.’ Then Iranian president…[said] “The two governments and two nations of Iran and the DPRK have many common traits and ideals; it is this kinship that has resulted in the day-by-day increase in relations and cooperation between our two countries.’…The two countries conduct a “friendship week” each year, and they often even coordinate political moves.”

Washington is now wedged between two unfavorable policy options.  If it chooses to do nothing substantial to eliminate the rapidly escalating North Korean threat, it places American safety in severe jeopardy, since, using an EMP attack, the Pyongyang government could devastate the nation.  On the other hand, if it decides to take forceful action, it faces a two-front war that the Obama-era budget cuts have left it ill-prepared to face.

The North Korean-Iranian Alliance

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government presents a two-part review of the Iranian-North Korean nuclear, missile, and foreign policy alliance .

As North Korea rapidly progresses towards the capability of conducting a nuclear strike on the American mainland, analysts are confronting another horrifying reality.

It may not be sufficient to engage North Korea alone to prevent an attack from a secondary power. Atomic threats, in concert with the Pyongyang government, may simultaneously arise from a wholly different portion of the globe, as well as possibly within our own shores, from both national actors as well as terrorist organizations. Adding to that troublesome scenario is the after-effects of the extraordinarily poor decision making during the Obama Administration, which severely reduced the ability of the United States to confront anything more than a single-region threat.

The necessity of pre-emptive action against North Korea is growing sharply.  As noted in a Breitbart analysis, experts are deeply concerned that the Pyongyang regime has developed the capability of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that could devastate the U.S. mainland. “Dr. Peter Vincent Pry…executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and…the chief of staff of the Congressional EMP Commission..pointed to two North Korean satellites that are currently orbiting the U.S. at trajectories…are optimized for a surprised EMP attack.”

If it becomes necessary to strike at North Korea to prevent an atomic assault on the United States, Iran can be expected to strike against U.S. interests and allies in the Middle East with its own forces, and perhaps worldwide—even within America itself– through its staunch support of terrorist forces such as Hezbollah.

When Tehran does make a move against the U.S. in response to an American self-defense response to North Korea, the Pentagon will have a difficult time meeting the two-front challenge.

Apparently oblivious to the growing danger from the rising strength of superpowers such as Russia and China and belligerent states North Korea and Iran, the Obama Administration decided to slash military spending during its tenure. A significant aspect of that decision was to downgrade the Pentagon’s resources to the point where it could no longer protect American interests in two areas during the same time span.

In 2010, the Obama Defense Department  announced that  “The model used to determine the appropriate size of the United States military is being replaced following the Quadrennial Defense Review process…the theory that U.S. forces should be sized based on the need to fight two major wars simultaneously no longer is appropriate.” The ability to “defeat two regional aggressors” was considered part of a replaced “Old planning program.”

Writing in CNN’s Security Blog, Chris Lawrence noted The military would not maintain its ability to wage two large conflicts at the same time, such as it did in Iraq and Afghanistan…”

The fallacy of that revision was obvious. North Korea and Iran, two very likely opponents, have a close military and diplomatic relationship.  Indeed, it is difficult to distinguish where the military technology of one ends and the other begins.

A Joint Hearing before the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific and the Subcommittee on the Middle East and North Africa of the Committee on Foreign Affairs,  noted that:

“The long history of secret cooperation between Iran and North Korea in violation of international law stretches back for decades. North Korea first sold Iran ballistic missiles during the 1980s during Iran’s war with Iraq. By the end of the 1980s, North Korea and China were supplying Iran with about 70 percent of its arms. Move to the 1990s, and Iran and North Korea had moved onto working together to develop long-range ballistic missiles. North Korean long-range ballistic missiles became the basis for the Iranian Shahab missile series, which currently threatens Israel, our other Middle East allies, and even Central Europe. In fact, the intelligence community has said that missile cooperation between Iran and North Korea has provided Iran with an increase in its military capabilities. By the beginning of the 2000s, the Iranians were giving North Korea sensitive data from their own missile tests to improve the North Korean missile systems. In fact, Iranian officials have been present at nearly every major North Korean missile test.”

The Report concludes tomorrow