North Korea would not hesitate to use a nuclear bomb as a preemptive strike against American forces preparing a military attack on the country, the country's vice foreign minister said Friday.
CBS News reported Vice Foreign Minister Han Song Ryol said the United States is marching toward war with North Korea and President Trump's decision to send a naval strike force near the Korean Peninsula is a provocation.
Reports have surfaced that Trump is considering a pre-emptive strike on the North Koreans to keep dictator Kim Jong Un from testing a sixth nuclear weapon. The Pentagon has knocked back that report, but Han said if the U.S. considers such an action it will be war.
"If the U.S. comes up with a dangerous military option, then the first card is in our hands, then we'll deal with it with our pre-emptive strike," he said. "This means war."
When asked if North Korea would use a nuclear weapon in a war with the United States, Han simply replied, "Of course."
As millions of North Koreans celebrate the Day of the Sun today, marking the birth of their cruel dynasty’s founding dictator, Kim Il-sung, his grandson’s nuclear ambitions have put the nation’s fate on a knife-edge and threatens peace throughout East Asia.
The chubby young tyrant, Kim Jong-un, has enjoyed playing the unpredictable despot ever since he inherited power in 2011. Now he is playing with fire.
This is a leader who would willingly take his small, poverty-stricken country to the brink of war with the world’s only superpower.
He knows he can’t win, but he also knows that a second Korean War will be a bloodbath because he has a vast arsenal – everything from primitive nuclear bombs, ballistic missiles and nerve gas to 150,000 cannon – with which he can hit South Korean cities and the US bases there.
To save his own rule – and after the ominous threats emanating from the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, in recent days it would be an unimaginable humiliation for him to back down – Kim Jong-un is prepared for North Korea to take the suicide option with devastating consequences for the region.
And so a terrible game of dare is unfolding between the Supreme Leader and America’s new President.
Like his father and grandfather, Kim Jong-un has grown used to facing down America and the United Nations, ignoring sanctions and taunting them with repeated nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
Washington believes China is its trump card in dealing with Kim Jong-un. If the US and China act in tandem – one wielding the big military stick, the other threatening to cut fuel and food supplies – surely North Korea would have to give ground and denuclearise?
But President Xi sees things differently because he is closer to the crisis. Conflict on the Korean Peninsula would have huge repercussions for China as well as for US allies, South Korea, and Japan, drawing these countries in militarily, and triggering a flood of refugees.
Why else would the normally soft-spoken Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, have raised his voice in alarm yesterday, warning that war could ‘break out at any moment’ and urging all parties to stop before reaching an ‘irreversible and unmanageable stage’.
Earlier on Friday, South Korea warned North Korea against engaging in any “provocation,” such as a nuclear or missile test, to mark the ‘Day of the Sun’, the 105th anniversary of the birth of North Korea’s state founder Kim Il Sung, which the country will celebrate on Saturday. The speculations were fueled further when Pyongyang invited 200 foreign journalists from various media outlets, including CNN, AP, and Japan’s NHK, for “a big and important event.”
Also on Friday, China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, warned that tensions between the US and North Korea had escalated to such a point that “a military conflict may start at any moment.”
“Lately, tensions have risen,” Wang said, adding “if a war occurs, the result is a situation in which everybody loses and there can be no winner.” The Chinese FM called for the crisis to be solved through diplomacy, adding that if one of the sides provokes a conflict, it “will have to accept historic responsibility and pay the relevant price.”
As discussed here on Thursday night, NBC reported that that two American destroyers armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles are positioned some 480 kilometers from North Korea’s nuclear test site. America is contemplating a preemptive strike if it becomes “convinced” that a nuclear detonation by the North is imminent, multiple senior US intelligence officials told NBC News. It was not clear what signs the US would be looking for.
On Thursday, Trump said North Korea is a problem that “will be taken care of,” while expressing hope that China will “work very hard” to help Washington in solving it. The tensions on the Korean Peninsula were extensively discussed during the US leader’s talks with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping last week.
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So what happens next? At this moment, all eyes are on Pyongyang and whether Kim Jong-Un will unleash the nuclear test many believe is coming, escalating the North Korean crisis to its next stage.
North Korea displayed what appeared to be new long-range and submarine-based missiles on the 105th birth anniversary of its founding father, Kim Il Sung, on Saturday, as a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region.
Missiles appeared to be the main theme of a giant military parade, with Kim's grandson, leader Kim Jong Un, taking time to greet the commander of the Strategic Forces, the branch that oversees the missile arsenal.
A U.S. Navy attack on a Syrian airfield this month with Tomahawk missiles raised questions about U.S. President Donald Trump's plans for reclusive North Korea, which has conducted several missile and nuclear tests in defiance of U.N. sanctions, regularly threatening to destroy the United States.
Kim Jong Un, looking relaxed in a dark suit and laughing with aides, oversaw the festivities on the "Day of the Sun" at Pyongyang's main Kim Il Sung Square.
Unlike at some previous parades attended by Kim, there did not appear to be a senior Chinese official in attendance. China is North Korea's lone major ally but has spoken out against its missile and nuclear tests and has supported U.N. sanctions. China on Friday again called for talks to defuse the crisis.
Weapons analysts said they believed some of the missiles on display were new types of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).
The North has said it has developed and would launch a missile that can strike the mainland United States but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering all the necessary technology.
Beyond the SLBM, we saw North Korea make important advances with its test of the Pukkuksong-2 (or KN-15) solid fuel ballistic missile in February this year (when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was visiting the United States). The missile, which is a land-launched variant of the KN-11, was notable for using a tracked transporter erector launcher (TEL) and for being fully canisterized (i.e., enclosed and ready for launch). As I discussed in February, the tracked TEL is particularly a good investment for North Korea, which has a high ratio of unpaved to paved roads. North Korea has just 724 km of paved roads compared to 24,830 km of unpaved roads and regular TEL trucks cannot realistically go off-road without applying dangerous physical stress to the chassis of the missile they’d carry.
Second, the canisterization of the solid fuel missile means that North Korea would be able to store the system remotely and launch it with little warning, eliminating the sort of support vehicles that would generate a large satellite signature for the United States and South Korea to observe in a potential preemption scenario. In sum, both the KN-11 and the KN-15 are about increasing survivability and obtaining a second strike capability. North Korea showed off six KN-15 TELs at Saturday’s parade. Together, these platforms make the prospect of a preemptive strike by the United States or South Korea less palatable, leaving open the prospect of nuclear retaliation.
In addition to the KN-11 and KN-15, we saw a new type of Korean People’s Army tracked TEL carrying four smaller canisterized missiles. Though uncertain, it is likely that the new TEL is intended to launch North Korea’s non-nuclear anti-ship cruise missile, which is thought to be based off the Russian Zvezda Kh-35. The tracked TELs are again suggestive of Pyongyang envisioning their use in a versatile “shoot-and-scoot” coastal artillery scenario, where each unit would strike surface combatants at sea and move to avoid retaliation. North Korea also showed off other platforms we’ve seen before, including its SA-5 surface-to-air missile and new Multiple Launch Rocket System.
Going back to my original point — that Saturday’s display should merit attention similar to a nuclear test — the KN-11, KN-15, and possible Kh-35 variant TEL’s appearance were really the amuse bouche for North Korea watchers at the parade. North Korea saved its biggest and baddest missiles for last, as is custom at these parades. This is where things got particularly interesting, catching off-guard many North Korea experts who were watching the parade live.
After the new KN-08/KN-14 had strolled out of the limelight in Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung square, North Korea introduced the crescendo of the whole affair: it rolled out two previously unseen ICBM-sized canisters on board massive TELs. One TEL appeared to be similar to an older KN-08 TEL and the other appeared to be new (though similar in appearance to a Chinese DF-41 or Russian Topol-M). We don’t know what — if anything — was inside the canisters since North Korea hasn’t publicly shown off or tested any missile of that size before. However, we can infer given the size of the canister and the fact that it was paraded on Saturday that Pyongyang wants the world to know that it is actively working toward at least two types of solid-fuel, canisterized ICBMs (possibly with three stages).
In summation, as I noted on Twitter during the parade, the two big technical trends this year for North Korea may be tracked TELs and canisterized systems. More broadly, observing the parade took left me reflecting on the somewhat grim prediction I’d made in January that 2017 would turn out to be the year of the North Korean ICBM. Given both what North Korea has said and now what it has shown, this certainly seems to be the case. And more so than ever, North Korea seems to be highlighting the perils of a preemptive first strike to the United States and South Korea. With every nuclear and ballistic missile test, its threat of inflicting unacceptable retaliatory damage against Seoul and, eventually, Washington becomes more credible.
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