News Roundup Special: North Korea Update (September 24, 2017)

news roundup, North Korea, hydrogen bomb

Hello, readers! For this week, I’m going to do something a little different. For this post and a few more I plan to do this week, I will discuss in-depth sections dedicated to a few important stories around the world. This News Roundup Special concerns North Korea.


Table of Contents

Here are your top stories concerning North Korea:

  • North Korea Flies Missile over Japan
  • North Korea’s Hydrogen Bomb
  • Worldwide Condemnation
  • More Sanctions
  • North Korea Seeks Equilibrium
  • More Saber-Rattling
  • U.S. Bombers Near North Korea

North Korea Launched 3 Missiles in August 2017.

On Saturday, August 26, North Korea launched 3 missiles from Kittaeryoung, on the country’s east coast. All three missiles were determined to be short-range missiles and at least two landed in the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan. According to the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii, the first and third missiles failed in flight while the second missile exploded almost immediately.

The launches coincided with joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea. In a propaganda video, North Korea restated that it saw those exercises are a precursor to an invasion. The DPRK also referred to the South as “the puppet group.”

The U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii monitors North Korean missiles.

Of course, South Korea and Japan were also monitoring the missiles. According to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, the country’s Joint Chiefs of Staff had detected a “projectile” and was determining the type of missile it was. According to early reports, the missiles traveled distances not exceeding 150 miles before landing in the sea. According to Japan’s NHK broadcaster and Kyodo News, Japanese authorities had determined that ballistic missiles were fired.

The Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises were going on in South Korea at the time. The exercises are mainly predicated toward computer simulations.

According to DPRK’s state-run media, leader Kim Jong-Un visited the Chemical Material Institute of the Academy of Defense Sciences. While there, he was said to have looked over designs for two new long-range missiles.


North Korea Flew Missile over Japan Withi Weeks of Each Other.

On the morning of Tuesday, August 29, North Korea launched a Hwasong-12 (known by U.S. intelligence agencies as the KN-17) from a site at Sunan. Before, North Korea threatened to launch a missile at Guam, a U.S. territory where two military bases sit. However, this missile flew northward over the Japanese island of Hokkaido before landing in the sea.

Japan was on high alert. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called an emergency security council meeting and Patriot missiles were lined up in order to shoot down the missile. The government sounded alarms and told residents to take cover until it was determined that the missile would not land on Japanese territory.

The Hwasong-12 is an intermediate missile which is “technically capable” of traveling 3,000 miles, which would allow it to reach Guam or the American mainland. This missile was launched at 5:59 am Japanese time. It flew over Hokkaido at 6:06 am on its 733-mile flight path before landing in the Pacific Ocean.

This was not the first missile to fly over parts of Japan. There was a confirmed missile launch in 1998. In 2009, a suspected missile flew over japan, but the DPRK later claimed that was a satellite.

The frequent missile launches in the month of August were clearly provocations and a form of messaging toward the Trump administration. There had been no missile launches in the first three weeks of August until after Trump made comments to suggest that his rhetoric was working and that DPRK leader Kim Jong-Un had come to respect him.

The Aug. 28 missile launch brings to total to 18 during the five years Kim Jong-un has served as leader. In 17 years of Kim Jong-Il’s leadership, there were 16 total missile launches.

Sept. 15 Launch

This time, according to the Japanese government, the test missile also flew over Hokkaido and landed in the Pacific Ocean about 2,000 km (1,240 miles) to the east. According to the South Korean military, the missile traveled a total distance of 3,700 km (2,300 miles). That’s far enough to reach the U.S terroritory of Guam.

In a statement, the Union of Concerned Scientists advocacy group said the distance was significant but the accuracy of the missile was low. The U.S. military, which said it had detected a ballistic missile, determined that the missile was not a threat to North America or Guam.

National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, who said the patience with the DPRK was wearing thin, also said military action was no the preferred choice of the Trump administration.

The U.N. Security Council condemned the missile launch as “highly provocative.”


North Korea Reportedly Tested a Hydrogen Bomb on Sept. 3.

On Sunday, Sept. 3, North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said the country had developed a new nuclear weapon. KCNA also reported that leader Kim Jong-Un had been at the country’s Nuclear Weapons Institute in order to inspect a hydrogen bomb meant to be loaded onto an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). The news agency said that all the parts of the H-bomb were homemade and that the country could produce as many of the explosives as it wanted to.

Although KCNA made no mention of a sixth nuclear test by the DPRK in its report, experts warned that it could come at any time. The fourth nuclear test by North Korea, said to be a hydrogen bomb test, was conducted in Jan. 2016. The country’s fifth nuclear test was conducted in Sept. 2016; although that was said to be North Korea’s largest detonation at the time, the resulting earthquake did not indicate another thermonuclear test.

According to U.S. officials, North Korea had parts for a nuclear detonation in place for at least several months. However, no known activity had been recently detected from the DPRK’s test site in Punggye-ri.

Punggye-ri is in North Korea’s northeastern region.

Its Sixth Nuclear Test

Hours after it was announced that North Korea had developed a more powerful hydrogen bomb, North Korea claimed to have conducted another hydrogen bomb test. The test was conducted in the country’s underground testing site in Punggye-ri, which lies deep in a mountainous region.

In addition, North Korea mentioned the possibility of an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack. In an EMP attack, a bomb would be detonated in the atmosphere, putting a targeted country’s electrical grid in danger.

The test of a hydrogen bomb could not be independently confirmed, but this was the most powerful nuclear test conducted by the DPRK to date. The U.S. Geological Survey measured the resulting earthquake to be magnitude 6.3, which would suggest a hydrogen bomb was tested or the DPRK was getting very close to successfully testing one. According to South Korean and Japanese officials, this test was 10 times more powerful than North Korea’s nuclear test in Sept. 2016.

Also, if the pictures shown by KCNA are to be believed, North Korea has been developing a two-stage thermonuclear bomb. Hydrogen bombs usually require an atomic reaction known as fission (the splitting of atoms) in order to trigger a fusion reaction in order to produce a larger explosion.

This can be a game changer because a hydrogen bomb can increase the range of impact of any missile deployed by North Korea for two reasons. First, a hydrogen bomb could be lighter than another atomic bomb, thus allowing missiles to travel a greater distance. Second, as mentioned above, hydrogen bombs pack more powerful explosions.

However, to date, North Korea has not proven that it could produce a warhead that can survive the re-entry into the earth’s surface after an intercontinental flight.

Notes

In January 2016, North Korea claimed to have tested a miniature hydrogen bomb. However, experts say that might have been a “boosted” device, an atomic bomb which used hydrogen isotopes to create a higher yield.

The process of nuclear fusion in a bomb triggers the fission of uranium.

In a short article with a corresponding video at USA Today, the difference between an atomic and a hydrogen bomb are explained. In short, atomic bombs use nuclear fission, in which atoms split apart. Hydrogen bombs use nuclear fusion, which many times more powerful than a fission explosion. The author of this article said H-bombs use atomic bombs “just as a trigger.”

Atomic weapons like those previously tested by North Korea rely on nuclear fission to release energy — basically splitting atoms. The bombs dropped by the United States on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II used this technology to release explosive power equivalent to about 15 and 20 kilotons (1,000 metric tons) of TNT, respectively.

Hydrogen bombs use nuclear fusion, in which atoms fuse together, to release even greater amounts of energy. The two-stage process is often referred to as a thermonuclear reaction. The first hydrogen bomb tested by the United States in November 1952 released the equivalent energy of 10,000 kilotons (or 10 megatons) of TNT.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China have nuclear arsenals composed of hydrogen weapons; Israel, India, and Pakistan are generally believed to have nuclear weapons that use only nuclear fission.

Worldwide Condemnation

North Korea’s latest nuclear test brought condemnation from numerous world leaders and organizations and concerned statements from China and Russia.

China urged the DPRK to stop with its “wrong” actions. China also said it would fully back U.N resolutions in case North Korea didn’t immediately comply.

The Russian foreign ministry called for the involved countries to come to talks, saying diplomacy was the only way to resolve the issue. Additionally, the ministry said North Korea risked “serious consequences.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency called the test of the hydrogen bomb “an extremely regrettable act” which was “in complete disregard of the repeated demands of the international community.” The IAEA does not have access to North Korea.

Here’s part of a statement from French President Emmanuel Macron, who urged a firm and quick response from the United Nations Security Council

The international community must treat this new provocation with the utmost firmness, in order to bring North Korea to come back unconditionally to the path of dialogue and to proceed to the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of its nuclear and ballistic program.

Here’s part of statement on the Russian foreign ministry’s website

In the emerging conditions it is absolutely essential to keep cool, refrain from any actions that could lead to a further escalation of tensions.

And here’s a statement from Lassina Zerbo, who heads the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization

I sincerely hope that this will serve as the final wake-up call to the international community to outlaw all nuclear testing by bringing the CTBT into force.


China Voiced Its Frustration.

Beijing is continually frustrated by the “China responsibility theory,” by which numerous nations, including Japan, South Korea, Australia, and Western nations, repeatedly suggest that China needs to rein in North Korea. Although there is some loyalty toward the DPRK among members of the Chinese military and diplomatic community due to shared sacrifices during the 1950-53 Korean War, China contends that other countries should shoulder the responsibility of calming tensions. China has repeatedly called for talks with North Korea and concerned parties. However, some observers believe talks and sanctions will have no real effect in terms of North Korea halting its nuclear program.

Beijing is also concerned about join military exercises between the United States and South Korea. China says those exercises only increase tensions since North Korea sees those exercises as a prelude to an invasion.

Ultimately, China has taken a relatively passive position in this because it fears what would happen if North Korea was destabilized. One thing that will likely happen is an influx of refugees from North Korea to China, which will likely happen if the government of North Korea were to collapse.


The U.N. Security Council Levied More Sanctions Against the DPRK.

After the DPRK conducted its sixth nuclear test, an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council was called. At the meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said Kim Jong-Un was “begging for war.”

We have taken an incremental approach, and despite the best of intentions, it has not worked. War is never something the Unites States wants — we don’t want it now. But our country’s patience is not unlimited. We will defend our allies and our territory.

At the end of the meeting Haley said the U.S. would circulate a resolution, one that would be voted on during the Week of Sept. 10-16.

What Would Be in That Resolution?

According to a U.S. diplomat, the United States planned to push for more, harsher sanctions against North Korea in the wake of its latest Hydrogen bomb test. If this “hard-hitting, ambitious resolution” is passed by the U.N. Security Council, the package of sanctions would fully ban all exports to the reclusive nation, ban all textile imports from North Korea, ban North Korean  laborers from generating money overseas, and freeze assets, which will affect members of the ruling Worker’s Party.

This was confirmed by another diplomat.

Haley rebuffed calls from China and Russia for the U.S. to take part in a freeze for freeze, by which North Korea would refrain from conducting missile and nuclear tests in exchange for the U.S. ending its military exercises in South Korea. Haley said that was “insulting.”

OnWednesday, Trump talked with Chinese President Xi Jinping about the DPRK’s latest nuclear test. Afterward, the White House released a statement claiming that both leaders were committed to denuclearizing North Korea.

What Was in the Final Resolution?

U.N Resolution 2375 imposes a bans on North Korea’s textile exports, its gas liquids, and other energy-related products. In addition, there is a ban on North Korean laborers from raising money for the DPRK from outside the country’s borders. The textile imports netted North Korea $750 million in 2016 and its outside laborers brought in $500 million a year.

That’s as far as China and Russia were willing to go since the final resolution only imposes a cap, at current levels, on crude oil exports to North Korea. Putin cited a concern over the effects of harsher sanctions on North Korean civilians.

That news wasn’t welcome in South Korea. The country’s president, Moon Jae-in, had supported the oil embargo.

Also:

Some observers feel the new sanctions will have little effect.

Steve “Foreclosure King” Mnuchin said the United States would also put sanctions on China, like preventing China from accessing the U.S. and international dollar system if Beijing didn’t follow through with the new sanctions. The U.S. has been considering placing “secondary sanctions” on Chinese banks and other companies as leverage for the North Korea situation. However, if the United States did decide to do such a thing, it could have far-reaching effects on the world economy.

Russia and China have said that they would kick-start talks between the United States and North Korea but only if the U.S. halts its joint military exercises with South Korea.

On Tuesday, Sept. 5, South Korea’s Air Force conducted its first live-fire exercise of Taurus long-range, air-to-surface missles. According the the South Korean Defense Ministry, the exercise was practice for precision-bombing North Korean facilities.

Before this new round of sanctions, there were some more sanctions agreed to in August. Then the Uunited States aimed to cut the DPRK’s $3 billion haul in exports by a third.


DPRK Says It Seeks Equilibrium with the U.S.

The U.N. Security Council voted 15-0 to approve the newer sanctions on North Korea, but North Korean officials remained defiant. They vowed to continue the country’s weapons program and even the DPRK’s ambassador to the U.N. got into the act.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the resolutions were an infringement on its legitimate right to self-defense and aimed at “completely suffocating its state and people through full-scale economic blockade”.

“The DPRK will redouble the efforts to increase its strength to safeguard the country’s sovereignty and right to existence and to preserve peace and security of the region by establishing the practical equilibrium with the U.S.,” it said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.

Han Tae Song, the DPRK’s Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, said his country was “ready to use a form of ultimate means.” He also said the following:

The forthcoming measures … will make the U.S. suffer the greatest pain it ever experienced in its history.

On Friday, Sept. 15, North Korean Official news agency KCNA quoted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in saying that he wanted his country to reach a military equilibrium with the United States. Kim also reportedly said North Korea was close to completing its nuclear arsenal.

Our final goal is to establish the equilibrium of real force with the U.S. and make the U.S. rulers dare not talk about military option.

The comments came after the DPRK fired another missile over Japan. That was the second time that happened in over a month.


Trump and North Korea Officials Engaged in Even More Saber-Rattling.

On Tuesday, Trump gave his maiden speech to the U.N. During that speech, he singled out a few nations, including Iran and North Korea. Regarding the DPRK, Trump called Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man” and said the latter was on a suicide mission. Trump said that if Kim continued on this course, North Korea would be “totally destroyed.”

On Saturday, Trump ratcheted up his comments and left this tweet:

Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!

On Saturday, North Korea held an anti-U.S. rally in Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang. Video of the rally was shown today by state-run television station KRT. According to North Korea’s Central New Agency (KCNA), 100,000 people gathered for Saturday’s rally and those in attendance gave speeches in support of comme nt DPRK leader Kim Jong Un made earlier last week.

Also on Saturday, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho called Trump “Mr. Evil President.” Ri also told the United Nations General Assebmly that a strike on the U.S. mainland was inevitable after Trump’s harsh comments against North Korea on Tuesday, Sept 19 and this weekend.

Kim also had words for Trump. In an unprecedented direct statement, Kim called Trump a “mentally deranged dotard” who he would tame with fire. Kim said he would consider the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history” against the U.S. and that Trump offered confirmation that the DPRK’s nuclear program was “the correct path.”


U.S. Bombers Flew near North Korea.

Ri Yong Ho’s remarks were also coming After the United States sent U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers escorted by Air Force F-15C Eage fighters were sent along North Korea’s coast earlier on Saturday, Sept. 23. According to the Pentagon, this was the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone U.S. aircraft had ever travelled.

Of course, this was a show of force. It also came after a 3.0 earthquake was reported to be 49 km from Kilju in North Hamgyong Province, where the DPRK’s Punggye-ri nuclear site is located. It appeared to be a naturally occurring quake.

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