U.S. President Donald Trump says that North Korea “had best not make any more threats to the United States” or “they will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”
Trump issued the warning during a briefing on opioid addiction at his golf course in Bedminster, N.J.
The president’s remarks follow reports that North Korea may have successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles, passing a key threshold in becoming a full-fledged nuclear power, according to a Japanese defence paper and a U.S. media report.
“President Trump’s threats and bellicose rhetoric is exactly the wrong approach,” Kelsey Davenport, the director of non-proliferation policy at the Arms Control Association in Washington, told CBC News Network. “Trump is only going to inflame tensions further with North Korea, and this will increase the chance that these tensions could boil over into conflict,” she said.
The UN Security Council this weekend slapped its toughest sanctions yet on North Korea over its latest test of a ballistic missile that could be used to deliver a nuclear weapon. Despite the rapid tempo of these tests, uncertainty has lingered over the isolated nation’s ability to couple such a missile with a nuclear device.
Those uncertainties appear to be receding.
Miniaturization of nuclear warhead
Japan’s Defence Ministry concluded in an annual white paper released Tuesday that “it is possible that North Korea has achieved the miniaturization of nuclear weapons and has developed nuclear warheads.” Japan, a key U.S. ally, is also a potential target of North Korean aggression.
And the Washington Post reported Tuesday that U.S. intelligence officials assess that, a decade after North Korea’s first nuclear test explosion, Pyongyang has produced nuclear weapons for ballistic missile delivery, including by intercontinental missiles capable of reaching the continental U.S.
The Post story, citing unnamed U.S. intelligence officials, said the confidential analysis was completed last month by the U.S. Defence Intelligence Agency. The U.S. also calculated last month that North Korea has up to 60 nuclear weapons, the Post said, more than double most assessments by independent experts.
Officials at the agency would not comment Tuesday on the report. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence could not immediately be reached for comment.
North Korea said the sanctions infringed upon its sovereignty and it was ready to give Washington a “severe lesson” with its strategic nuclear force in response to any U.S. military action. Pyongyang said its intercontinental ballistic missiles are a legitimate means of defence against perceived U.S. hostility. It has long accused the United States and South Korea of escalating tensions by conducting military drills.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reacts with scientists and technicians after the test-launch of a Hwasong-14 missile in July. (KCNA via Reuters)
Alarm in Washington over North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s pursuit of a nuclear capability has intensified after the North conducted two tests of intercontinental ballistic missiles for the first time last month.
Diplomacy vs. threats and sanctions
Apparently North Korea has not successfully tested if its nuclear missile can withstand the heat generated when it re-enters the atmosphere. “So, the reliability and the accuracy of these missiles to actually reach their targets are certainly questionable,” Davenport said.
“And that does give the United States time to engage in a concerted diplomatic effort to prevent North Korea from further developing these capabilities,” she said.
Davenport is critical of both the Trump and the Obama administrations’ approach. “The typical playbook of sanctions pressure and threats is not going to stop North Korea. The U.S. needs to negotiate with them.”
“Requiring North Korea to take steps to give up its nuclear program before even engaging in talks is putting the cart before the horse.”
Reports say North Korea may have successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its missiles.A North Korean government photo shows what it says is the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
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