June 29, 2017

North Korea launches ballistic missile

23 February 2017, 12:47 | Clarence Schmidt

"They're working and they have slowed the nuclear program, they have slowed the ballistic missile program", said senior analyst Joseph Bermudez of North Korea monitoring group 38 North.

"Quickly reducing the share of trade with China is very hard, given that many companies are involved in the [mutual] supply chain", Wanghwi said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday underscored the importance of America's ties to China in a phone call with the country's top diplomat. However, because of its overriding concern with maintaining stability, China has repeatedly refused to apply the only type of pressure that could steer North Korea off the nuclear path: the threat of regime-ending punishment. The talks are hosted by China, and include South Korea, the United States, Russia, and Japan. Instead, President Trump should focus more on strengthening USA alliances in Northeast Asia, especially in the field of ballistic missile defense.

In this context, Lee Wanghwi from Ajou University mentioned China's so-called Red Supply Chain, a new economic policy which he said poses a serious threat to South Korea, which now delivers many components, semi-finished and intermediate products to China.

"This move reflects China's responsible attitude on the Korean nuclear issue and its sincerity in implementing U.N. Security Council resolutions", Geng said, referring to the ban. "We continue to urge China to exert its unique leverage as North Korea's largest trading partner to convince Pyongyang to return to serious talks on denuclearisation".

China announced in April previous year that it would ban North Korean coal imports in order to comply with sanctions imposed by the United Nations and aimed at starving the country of funds for its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

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There has always been talk in certain quarters of the USA of the need for regime change in North Korea, given repeated policy failures since the mid-1990s.

The decision is part of an effort to begin sanctions aimed at stopping North Korea's nuclear weapons program. Moreover, China's willingness to use sticks has often been transient.

Last year China imported 22.4 million tonnes of coal (mainly coking coal, despite being officially classified as anthracite by Beijing) from North Korea, a almost 15% rise from 2015.

The dilemma is that only the most severe penalties from China are likely to dissuade the DPRK from seeking nuclear weapons and deter it from conducting further provocations. An atomic bomb is considered a trump card by Pyongyang that will guarantee the regime's survival, and Kim Jong Un will pull out all the stops to get over the final hurdle.

The moratorium brings Beijing into compliance with February's U.N. Security Council resolutions over North Korea's nuclear program.

But experts said the move also reflected Beijing's deep frustration with North Korea over its recent missile test and the assassination of Kim Jong Un's half brother in Malaysia.

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