N. Korea Readies New Missile Launch as US, South Hold Military Drills Next Week

Korea

North Korea is preparing for a new ballistic missile launch, a news report said on Saturday.

The test will be held ahead of joint naval drills between the United States and South Korea, added the Donga Ilbo daily that cited a government source.

Satellite pictures show ballistic missiles mounted on launchers being transported out of hangars near Pyongyang and in the North Phyongan Province.

US and South Korean military officials suspect the North might be preparing to launch missiles capable of reaching US territory, the newspaper said.

This could be the Hwasong-14 inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM), whose range could extend to Alaska, or Hwasong-12 intermediate-range missiles which Pyongyang threatened to fire towards the US Pacific territory of Guam in August, the report said.

Another possibility is that the North might be preparing to test a new Hwasong-13 ICBM, it added, that has a longer maximum range than the other two missiles and could potentially reach the US West Coast.

A defense ministry spokesman declined to comment on the report, saying: “We don’t comment on any matters of military intelligence. We are keeping a close watch over the North.”

The US navy said Friday that the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier will lead the exercises with South Korea in the coming week, a fresh show of force against North Korea. The move will likely rile Pyongyang which has previously responded angrily to joint exercises.

The joint drills led by the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier come after hectic US military hardware movements around the Korean peninsula in recent days.

These follow a flurry of missiles from Pyongyang, which conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test last month in defiance of international sanctions.

On Friday the nuclear-powered USS Michigan submarine arrived at the southern South Korean port of Busan, just days after another nuclear-powered submarine — the USS Tuscon — left after a five day visit.

Earlier this week the US flew two supersonic heavy bombers over the Korean peninsula, staging the first night-time joint aviation exercises with Japan and South Korea.

US President Donald Trump’s continued threats of military action against Pyongyang if it does not tame its weapons ambitions have fueled fears of conflict on the Korean peninsula.

On Friday however, he said that he was open to the possibility that negotiations can steady tensions with Pyongyang, but he appeared to suggest he was keeping military options open.

Trump told reporters at the White House: “If it’s going to be something other than negotiation, believe me we are ready more so than we have ever been.”

He was responding to a question about his comment last week before a dinner with military leaders when he referred ambiguously to “the calm before the storm.”

Trump recently declared that his top diplomat was “wasting his time” in trying to negotiate with the North.

Meanwhile, the European Union will agree on Monday to ban business ties with North Korea, part of a new package of sanctions to isolate Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.

The practical impact of the moves is likely to be mostly symbolic: Brussels will impose an oil embargo and a ban on EU investment, but it sells no crude to North Korea and European companies have no substantial investments there.

North Korean workers in the EU, of which Brussels estimates there are about 400 mainly in Poland, will face a lower limit on the amount for money they can send home and their work visas will not be renewed once they expire.

The measures to be agreed by EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg go further than the latest round of multi-lateral sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council.

In Show of Force, US Flies Bombers over Korean Peninsula

Korea

Two US strategic bombers flew over the Korean peninsula on Wednesday in a show of force by Washington against Pyongyang’s aggressive nuclear drive.

A South Korean Defense Ministry official said, requesting anonymity because of department rules, said the bombers simulated missile strikes off the peninsula’s east coast before flying with two South Korean jets to then stage similar drills off the west coast.

The two B-1B supersonic bombers flew from an air base in the US territory of Guam to South Korea for drills with that country’s jets.

The US military said in a separate statement it conducted drills with Japanese fighters after the exercise with South Korea, making it the first time US bombers have conducted training with fighters from both Japan and South Korea at night.

The flights came after a South Korean lawmaker was reported to have revealed that North Korean hackers may have stolen highly classified military documents.

Rep. Lee Cheol-hee, a lawmaker for the ruling Democratic Party who sits on the National Defense Committee, said defense sources told him that North Korean hackers last year stole the classified US-South Korean war plans, including parts of Operational Plan 5015, which includes procedures for a “decapitation strike” on the North’s leadership if a crisis breaks out or appears imminent.

The Defense Ministry after an investigation said in May that North Korea was likely behind the hacking of the Defense Integrated Data Center in September last year, but had refused to confirm media speculation that the decapitation strike plan was compromised.

Defense officials refused to comment Wednesday.

Lee, who didn’t specify his sources, said the plans allegedly stolen by the North include operations for tracking the movement of the North’s leadership, isolating their hideouts, executing air assaults and follow-up actions for securing and eliminating targets, which would obviously include North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

“There is an urgent need for the military to change and update parts that were stolen by North Korea,” Lee said.

A preemptive strike against Pyongyang’s leadership would be difficult to undertake, but it’s widely seen as the most realistic of the limited military options Seoul has to deny a nuclear attack from its rival.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump met top defense officials to discuss how to respond to any threat from North Korea.

Tensions have soared between the United States and North Korea following a series of weapons tests by Pyongyang and a string of increasingly bellicose exchanges between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

North Korea has launched two missiles over Japan and conducted its sixth nuclear test in recent weeks as it fast advances toward its goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the US mainland.

Trump hosted a discussion on Tuesday on options to respond to any North Korean aggression or, if necessary, to prevent Pyongyang from threatening the United States and its allies with nuclear weapons, the White House said in a statement.

Trump was briefed by Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford at a national security team meeting, the statement said.

Pentagon Says US Bombers Fly off East Coast of N.Korea

US bombers flew off the east coast of North Korea Saturday in a show of force designed to project American military might in the face of Pyongyang’s weapons programs, escalating already sky-high tensions.

“This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that the President has many military options to defeat any threat,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

“We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies.”

According to AFP, the flight came after days of increasingly bellicose rhetoric between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s regime, as international alarm mounts over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

US bombers have carried out similar show of force flights as the United States and the international community struggle to rein in North Korea’s weapons programs.

But this was the furthest north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) any US fighter or bomber aircraft has flown off North Korea’s coast in this century, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said.

The Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers used Saturday are based in Guam, and were accompanied by F-15C Eagle fighter escorts from Okinawa, Japan, White said.

A shallow 3.5-magnitude earthquake that hit North Korea near its nuclear test site Saturday was likely an aftershock from the hermit state’s latest nuclear test on September 3, a nuclear test ban watchdog and other experts said.

The bomber flight and quake came at the end of a week that saw a blistering war of words between Kim and Trump, with the US leader using his maiden speech at the United Nations General Assembly to warn that Washington would “totally destroy” the North if America or its allies were threatened.

The North, which says it needs nuclear weapons to protect itself against the threat of a US invasion, responded on Friday with a rare personal rebuke from Kim, who called Trump “mentally deranged” and threatened the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history.”

South Korea Dismisses China Claim Quake in North Caused by ‘Explosion’

Korea

South Korea announced on Saturday that an earthquake in North Korea earlier in the day was natural.

The 3.0 quake was detected around where the isolated country recently conducted a nuclear test, said South Korea’s weather agency.

The quake was detected in an area around Kilju, in northeastern North Korea, and about 20 kilometers (12 miles) southeast of where the North conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on September 3, according to an official from Seoul’s Korea Meteorological Administration.

China, on the other hand, estimated that the tremor was triggered by a “suspected explosion.”

The official from the South Korean agency said the analysis of seismic waves and the lack of sound waves clearly showed that the quake was not caused by an artificial explosion.

“We use several methods to tell whether earthquakes are natural or man-made,” said the official, who asked for anonymity.

“A key method is to look at the seismic waves or seismic acoustic waves and the latter can be detected in the case of a man-made earthquake. In this case we saw none. So as of now we are categorizing this as a natural earthquake.”

Punggyeri nuclear site is located in Kilju where the quake was detected, the official added.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency reported earlier that the country’s seismic service detected a magnitude 3.4 quake in North Korea and saw the likely cause as an explosion.

North Korea has been maintaining a torrid pace in nuclear and weapons tests as it accelerates its pursuit of nuclear weapons that could viably target the United States and its allies in Asia.

North Korea said its recent nuclear test was a detonation of a thermonuclear weapon built for its developmental intercontinental ballistic missiles. In two July flight tests, those missiles showed potential capability to reach deep into the US mainland when perfected.

All of North Korea’s previous six nuclear tests registered as earthquakes of magnitude 4.3 or above. The September 3 test registered as a 6.3 magnitude quake.

A secondary tremor detected after that test could have been caused by the collapse of a tunnel at the mountainous site, experts said at the time. Satellite photos of the area after the September 3 quake showed numerous landslides apparently caused by the massive blast, which North Korea said was a hydrogen bomb.

The head of the nuclear test monitoring agency CTBTO said on Saturday that analysts were “looking at unusual seismic activity of a much smaller magnitude” in North Korea, and that it would have more details to come.

There was no immediate reaction from China’s Foreign Ministry, but the news was widely reported by Chinese state media outlets and on social media.

Tensions have continued to rise around the Korean peninsula since Pyongyang carried out its sixth nuclear test, prompting a new round of UN sanctions.

North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, currently in New York for a United Nations meeting, warned on Thursday that Kim could consider a hydrogen bomb test of an unprecedented scale over the Pacific.

US President Donald Trump called the North Korean leader a “madman” on Friday, a day after Kim dubbed him a “mentally deranged US dotard” who would face the “highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history”.

North Korea’s nuclear tests to date have all been underground, and experts say an atmospheric test, which would be the first since one by China in 1980, would be proof of the success of its weapons program.

Trump Approves New Sanctions on Companies Dealing with North Korea

Trump

New York – US President Donald Trump signed a new executive order to impose new sanctions on North Korea, as Washington and its allies attempt to pressure North Korean leader to abandon his nuclear ambitions.

In his sanctions announcement on Thursday at a press conference, Trump announced the additional sanctions on Pyongyang, including on its shipping and trade networks.

Ahead of Trump’s lunch meeting with the leaders of Japan and South Korea on Thursday, he was asked if diplomacy was still possible, Trump nodded and said: “Why not?”

Trump said the new executive order on sanctions gives further authorities to target individual companies and institutions that finance and facilitate trade with North Korea. He explained that it will cut off sources of revenue that fund North Korea’s efforts to develop the deadliest weapons known to humankind.

US Treasury Department now had authority to target those that conduct significant trade in goods, services or technology with North Korea.

The sanctions also targeted North Korea’s energy, medical, mining, textiles, and transportation industries, in addition, that US Treasury could sanction anyone who owns, controls or operates a port of entry in North Korea.

Washington also announced that banks doing business in North Korea would not be allowed to also operate in the United States.

“Foreign financial institutions are now on notice that going forward they can choose to do business with the United States or with North Korea, but not both,” US Treasury stated.

Trump also declared that China’s Central Bank had instructed other Chinese banks to stop doing business with Pyongyang. Beijing didn’t confirm Trump’s announcement.

In a related matter, ambassadors from 28 EU member states agreed on a package of new autonomous measures against North Korea, and they will now be prepared in detail to be formally approved by a meeting of EU foreign ministers at their October 16 meeting.

The EU plans to reduce how much money North Korean workers in Europe can send home from its current level of 15,000 euros.

In addition, EU plans to add around eight new North Korean officials were likely to be added to the sanctions list, which is also expected to be adopted by EU foreign ministers meeting.

A number of North Korean workers in Poland are also expected to be cut from 500 to 300, which will be discussed during EU’s meeting.

North Korea crisis was dominant over most UN speeches on Thursday including a harsh rhetoric toward North Korea from President Trump who threatened to obliterate the country.

Trump hosted President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan for lunch in New York after which he announced that North Korea’s nuclear weapons and nuclear development is a threat to peace and security in the world, and it is unacceptable that others financially support this criminal, rogue regime.

“The brutal North Korean regime does not respect its own citizens or the sovereignty of other nations,” Trump added.

Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in made a plea at the United Nations to scale back tensions with North Korea.

“We should manage the North Korea nuclear crisis in a stable manner so that tensions are not escalated too much or peace is not destroyed by accidental military clashes,” Moon said on Thursday at the UN General Assembly.

President Jae-in demanded North Korea to stop its reckless choice of pursuing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also urged at UNGA international unity in pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons. He said on Wednesday the “gravity of this threat is unprecedented.”

Abe appealed for nations to fully implement UN sanctions, saying the aid-for-disarmament negotiations had failed in the past two decades and concluded that pressure is needed.

Japanese PM also voiced support for the US stance that “all options are on the table.”

On the other hand, French President Emmanuel Macron said that his country would not turn its back on negotiations concerning North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

In related news, South Korea approved an $8 million aid package for North Korea. South Korea’s unification ministry agreed to provide the funds, which will go towards programmes for infants and pregnant women.

The ministry said humanitarian aid to impoverished North Korea should remain unaffected by rising political tensions on the peninsula.

The aid package did not include cash payments, the ministry said, and there was “realistically no possibility” that it could be of any use to the North Korean military.​​

China Says Threats Will Not End North Korea Crisis as US Hints at Military Option

Korea

China on Tuesday said that threatening action or rhetoric will not help in resolving the crisis with North Korea only hours after US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said that military options are available.

“Developments in the peninsula nuclear issue up to this point prove that, no matter whether it is military threats in words or in action, they cannot promote and advance a resolution,” the foreign ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, said.

Asked whether there were any military options the United States could take with North Korea that would not put Seoul at grave risk, Mattis said there were, but declined to give details.

“To the contrary, it just adds to tensions and makes achieving the goal of de-nuclearization on the peninsula appear more complicated and difficult to resolve,” the Chinese official added, responding to a question about Mattis’ comments at a regular briefing.

The North has repeatedly defied the United Nations to conduct nuclear and missile tests, the latest being a mid-range missile fired over Japan on Friday, soon after the reclusive nation’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test on September 3.

Seoul is within artillery range of North Korea, which is also believed to have a sizable chemical and biological arsenal beyond nuclear and conventional weapons.

Any conflict on the Korean peninsula could lead to bloodshed unseen since the 1950-53 Korean War, which took the lives of more than 50,000 Americans and millions of Koreans and ended in an armed truce, not a peace treaty.

Military options available to the United States range from non-lethal actions such as a naval blockade to enforce sanctions to waging cyber attacks and positioning new US weaponry in South Korea, where the United States has 28,500 troops.

South Korea and the United States, and separately Russia together with China, started military drills on Monday, in a show of force against North Korea.

The Korean peninsula issue must be resolved peacefully, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi stressed during a meeting with his Russian counterpart at the United Nations.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump spoke by telephone about keeping pressure on North Korea using economic sanctions imposed through the United Nations, the White House has said.

Meanwhile, Trump will urge during his first speech before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday world powers to turn up the pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

He will seek to rally the world to help the US and its Asian allies reduce North Korea to pariah status.

Trump’s move on Pyongyang comes as the US ambassador to the United States, Nikki Haley, says that most non-military options have all but been exhausted. The UN Security Council has already imposed several rounds of sanctions on North Korea.

Mattis told reporters that he believed diplomacy and sanctions were so far succeeding in putting more pressure on Pyongyang.

Even as tensions rise, the United States and its allies have stuck to a hands-off policy when North Korea test-fires its missiles. Mattis confirmed that the US would not shoot down a North Korean missile unless it poses a direct threat to the United States or its allies.

North Korea’s official KCNA news agency said on Monday that the more sanctions that Washington and its allies imposed on Pyongyang, the faster it would move to complete its nuclear plans.

South Korea has raised the possibility of reintroducing nuclear weapons to the peninsula. Mattis acknowledged discussing that with his South Korean counterpart but declined to say whether that option was under consideration.

Japan on Tuesday moved a mobile missile-defense system on the northern island of Hokkaido to a base near recent North Korean missile flyover routes.

Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera said a Patriot Advanced Capability-3 interceptor unit was deployed at the Hakodate base on southern Hokkaido “as a precaution” as part of government preparations for a possible emergency.

The relocation came after a North Korean missile was test-fired last week and flew over southern Hokkaido and landed in the Pacific off the island’s east coast — the second flyover in less than a month.

The PAC-3 was brought from another base in Yakumo town on Hokkaido, about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northeast of Hakodate. The system has a range of about 20 kilometers (12 miles).

Four more of Japan’s 34 PAC-3 units, largely used to defend the capital region, were relocated to southwestern Japan recently after North Korea warned of sending missiles toward the US territory of Guam.

Japan currently has a two-step missile defense system. First, Standard Missile-3 interceptors on Aegis destroyers in the Sea of Japan would attempt to shoot down missiles mid-flight. If that fails, surface-to-air PAC-3s would try to intercept them.

Japan’s Constitution, which limits the use of force to self-defense, only allows the military to shoot down missiles that are heading to Japan, or debris falling onto Japanese territory. Onodera has said a new security law passed in 2015 might allow it to shoot down a Guam-bound missile if it poses a critical security threat to Japan and its top ally, the United States.

US Flies Bombers amid Standoff with North Korea

Seoul said Monday the US military has flown powerful bombers and stealth jets over the Korean Peninsula in joint drills with South Korean warplanes and in a show of force after Pyongyang’s latest nuclear and missile tests.

Four F-35B stealth fighters and two B-1B bombers flew over the peninsula to “demonstrate the deterrence capability of the US-South Korea alliance against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats”, Seoul’s defense ministry said in a statement.

The United States often sends such high-tech, powerful aircraft in a show of force in times of heightened animosities with North Korea.

The flyovers came three days after North Korea fired an intermediate-range missile over Japan into the northern Pacific Ocean in apparent defiance of US-led international pressure on the country.

The North conducted its sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3 and was subsequently hit with tough, fresh UN sanctions.

The US is ramping up pressure on the North, with its ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley warning that Pyongyang would be “destroyed” if it refused to end its “reckless” weapons drive.  

The subject is set to dominate US President Donald Trump’s address to the UN General Assembly and his meetings with South Korean and Japanese leaders this week.

Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-In spoke by phone Saturday and vowed to exert “stronger pressure” on the North, with Moon’s office warning that further provocation would put it on a “path of collapse.”

However, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel called on Monday for direct talks with North Korea.

Gabriel told Monday’s edition of the Bild daily that the world should wait for sanctions to bite, but “visions and courageous steps” also are needed.

He said “a security guarantee other than the nuclear bomb” is needed for North Korea and pointed to Cold War detente as an example.

He said that requires direct negotiations with North Korea and argued that the US, China and Russia should participate.

Officials in Germany, which holds an election Sunday, have been adamant that there must be a diplomatic solution.

Kuwait to Expel North Korea Ambassador

Korea

Kuwait will expel the North Korean ambassador as the US and Asian nations stepped up pressure on their allies to sever ties with the isolated state in wake of its recent nuclear test and missile launch over Japan.

A Gulf-based official confirmed on Sunday that Kuwait would be expelling the diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence reports. A letter Kuwait sent in August to the United Nations also made that pledge.

Kuwait’s Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Kuwait’s move will potentially limit Pyongyang’s ability to earn money for its nuclear program from laborers it sends to the Gulf.

Four diplomats will also be asked to leave the oil-rich state along with Ambassador So Chang Sik. That will leave four diplomats at the embassy. The embassy did not respond to a request for comment.

North Korea’s Embassy in Kuwait City serves as its only diplomatic outpost in the Gulf. Pyongyang has thousands of laborers working in Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Kuwait’s ruling emir, Sheikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Sabah, traveled to Washington and met with US President Donald Trump this month. In a statement, the US Embassy in Kuwait City called Kuwait “a key regional partner on (North Korea) and many other issues.”

“Kuwait has taken positive steps in regards to implementing UN resolutions related to” Pyongyang, it said.

While a small market compared to China and Russia, the amount of money North Korean laborers in the Gulf kick back to the government helps Pyongyang evade international sanctions, authorities say.

A 2015 UN report suggested that the more than 50,000 North Koreans working overseas earned Pyongyang between $1.2 billion and $2.3 billion a year. Other estimates put earnings in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Earlier, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in and Trump agreed to exert stronger pressure through sanctions on North Korea following its nuclear and missile tests, South Korea’s presidential office said following a telephone call between the two leaders on Sunday.

“The two leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation, and exert stronger and practical sanctions on North Korea so that it realizes provocative actions leads to further diplomatic isolation and economic pressure,” Blue House spokesman Park Soo-hyun said in a televised briefing.

The Blue House said Moon and Trump had strongly condemned the latest missile launch by North Korea, and agreed that the two nations would work with the international community to implement the latest UN Security Council’s resolution 2375, Park said.

UN Unanimously Adopts Softer Sanctions on North Korea

Korea

The United Nations Security Council unanimously approved on Monday new sanctions against North Korea that bans it from importing all natural gas liquids and condensates.

The sanctions were not the toughest-ever measures sought by the administration of US President Donald Trump that had vowed to ban all oil imports and freeze international assets of the government and its leader, Kim Jong-Un.

The resolution was a response to Pyongyang’s sixth and strongest nuclear test explosion that it carried out on September 3 and which it alleged to have test a hydrogen bomb, drawing international alarm and condemnation.

The sanctions cap Pyongyang’s imports of crude oil at the level of the last 12 months, and it limits the import of refined petroleum products to 2 million barrels a year. They also ban all textile exports and prohibit any country from authorizing new work permits for North Korean workers — two key sources of hard currency for the northeast Asian nation.

The watered-down resolution does not include sanctions that the US wanted on North Korea’s national airline and the army.

Nonetheless, US Ambassador Nikki Haley told the council after the vote that “these are by far the strongest measures ever imposed on North Korea.” But she stressed that “these steps only work if all nations implement them completely and aggressively.”

“Today we are saying the world will never accept a nuclear armed North Korea,” she said. “We are done trying to prod the regime to do the right thing” and instead are taking steps to prevent it “from doing the wrong thing.”

“The North Korean regime has not yet passed the point of no return,” she said. “If it agrees to stop its nuclear program it can reclaim its future. If it proves it can live in peace, the world will live in peace with it. … If North Korea continues its dangerous path, we will continue with further pressure.”

The final agreement was reached after negotiations between the US and China, the North’s ally and major trading partner. Haley said the resolution never would have happened without the “strong relationship” between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

But its provisions are a significant climb-down from the very tough sanctions the Trump administration proposed last Tuesday, especially on oil, where a complete ban could have crippled North Korea’s economy.

The cap on the import of petroleum products could have an impact, but North Korea will still be able to import the same amount of crude oil that it has this year.

The textile ban is significant. Textiles are North Korea’s main source of export revenue after coal, iron, seafood and other minerals that have already been severely restricted by previous UN resolutions. North Korean textile exports in 2016 totaled $752.5 million, accounting for about one-fourth of its total $3 billion in merchandise exports, according to South Korean government figures.

Haley said the Trump administration believes the new sanctions combined with previous measures would ban over 90 percent of North Korea’s exports reported in 2016.

As for North Koreans working overseas, the US mission said a cutoff on new work permits will eventually cost North Korea about $500 million a year once current work permits expire. The US estimates about 93,000 North Koreans are working abroad, the US official said.

The original US draft would have ordered all countries to impose an asset freeze and travel ban on Kim Jong-Un and four other top party and government officials. The resolution adopted Monday adds only one person to the sanctions list — Pak Yong Sik, a member of the Workers’ Party of Korea Central Military Commission, which controls the country’s military and helps direct its military industries.

The original US draft would also have frozen the assets of North Korea’s state-owned airline Air Koryo, the Korean People’s Army and five other powerful military and party entities. The resolution adds only the Central Military Commission of the Workers’ Party of Korea and the party’s powerful Organization and Guidance Department and its Propaganda and Agitation Department to the sanctions blacklist.

In its first reaction to the sanctions, North Korea rejected the resolution and said the US would soon face the “greatest pain” it had ever experienced.

Pyongyang’s ambassador Han Tae Song, addressing the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, said: “The Washington regime fired up for political, economic, and military confrontation, (is) obsessed with the wild game of reversing the DPRK’s development of nuclear force which has already reached the completion phase.”

The weakening of the sanctions reflects the longstanding rift between sanctions hawk Washington, and China and Russia, which advocate direct talks and more efforts to find a resolution through negotiations. The US has rejected proposals from both countries that it stop joint military exercises with South Korea in exchange for a halt to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.

Both Beijing and Moscow had strong words for Washington.

China’s UN ambassador urged the council to adopt the freeze-for-freeze proposal and urged the US to pledge not to seek regime change or North Korea’s collapse. Russia’s envoy said Washington’s unwillingness to have UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres try to resolve the dispute “gives rise to very serious questions in our minds.”

South Korea’s presidential Blue House said on Tuesday the only way for Pyongyang to end diplomatic isolation and become free of economic pressure was to end it nuclear program and resume dialogue.

“North Korea needs to realize that a reckless challenge against international peace will only bring about even stronger international sanctions against it,” the Blue House said.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe quickly welcomed the resolution and said after the vote it was important to change North Korea’s policy by imposing a higher level of pressure.

Terrorism and Nuclear Dreams

Saddam

“I participated in battles and some shrapnel are still inside my body. But, I find today’s world far more scarier than any other day before. I am a military-man and it is not easy for me to admit that I am scared. Earlier, you knew your enemy and his location. You could attack him. Now, the enemy can emerge from anywhere. Every time my children travel to this capital or that, I impatiently wait their return. Never have never experienced this level of anxiety,” said a retired general.

The general reminded me that the September 11 attacks took place 16 years ago, and up until now the world has failed to put an end to the war that sprung from it. He stated that the expenses paid following that dark day are equivalent to a great war, taking into consideration the hundreds of billions of dollars the US spent in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

He noted that terrorism is not the only problem. He mentioned that some suicide bombers wear explosive belts and there are insane people, who turn their countries into explosive belts as is the case with Kim Jong-un.

The general’s statement bears the hint of truth. We live in a terrifying world. Who can count the lives taken in the September 11 world? Who can count all of those killed in an explosion here or there? It is a wandering war, killing people in several cities, countries and continents. Also, who can calculate the sums countries have paid to enhance security measures in airports, cities and on borders. And who can estimate the tremendous losses caused by terrorists when they occupied this village or city?

A scary world indeed. Predicaments whose solutions are tough to find.

What will the world do, for example, with the North Korean leader, who insists on sleeping on a nuclear pillow in spite of threats and sanctions?

Is it really in the world’s interest to appease this man and let him possess a nuclear and missile arsenal that would be difficult to deter with any restrictions or agreements? Does the world’s interest demand to address this man with destructive force that is only available to the US military machine?

What about China, which has its own very complicated calculations in the North Korean crisis. Beijing doesn’t want to cut off Korea’s last economic lifeline. It fears the system will collapse and millions of refugees will flock into its territories. Beijing is also concerned that a Kim-less North Korea will end up in South Korea’s arms, which will create a major regional US ally.

China doesn’t want to witness the toppling of the North Korean regime under US army strikes similar to what happened with Saddam Hussein’s regime. It is not in Beijing’s interest to have such a US victory near its border which would renew certain regional countries’ bet on US.

Currently, there are two major issues haunting the world: tyrants’ lust for nuclear weapons as an “insurance policy” against any foreign invasion or international military punishment, and the ongoing terrorist wars, which the September 11 attacks relaunched and expanded to new territories.

Unluckily for us, the Middle East is an arena for terrorist appetites and, occasionally, a place for anyone interested in owning an “insurance policy” that can be used in the ongoing process of establishing a local major power that violates its neighbors’ borders. Such nuclear dreams came to Saddam Hussein, Gadhafi and Khomeini’s disciples.

Often, both of these “appetites” got mixed together in the Middle East.

One of Saddam Hussein’s aides once knocked on his door. The man told Saddam that something was happening in the US and that airplanes crashed into residential towers. Saddam asked him to turn on the television and he turned it on CNN. Saddam then asked him to turn to an Arabic channel and they witnessed the horrific scenes on al-Jazeera.

The man then asked Saddam if this incident will affect Iraq. Saddam replied that they are far from that, adding that a crime of this kind is often committed by an organization, not a state, and probably al-Qaeda.

It did not occur to Saddam on that day that the second earthquake would take place in Baghdad and lead to his hanging.

I was once at a coffee shop in an Arab capital and the coincidence would have it that a man sitting next to me was Saddam’s aide, who knocked on his door. He asked if I was the journalist who sometimes wrote about Iraq and I answered, yes. He told me that he had some clarifications to make to serve the truth, not defend Saddam, who had committed major errors.

The man, who stayed with Saddam for over 30 years, told me dozens of stories, including one that is worth mentioning here because it is relevant to nuclear dreams. The man was not a member of Saddam’s tribe or sect. He informed me that on May 13, 1981, the French ambassador in Iraq called for an urgent meeting with Saddam. The man said that this was a bit strange since it was supposed to happen through the Foreign Ministry, which prompted Saddam to summon Foreign Minister Tarek Aziz to inquire about the issue. The minister denied his knowledge of the incident and eventually Saddam agreed to meet the ambassador in the presence of Minister Aziz.

At the meeting, the ambassador took out a letter from then French President Valery Giscard d’Estaing, urgently asking Saddam to dispatch his Foreign Minister to a top-secret visit to the Elysee Palace to inform him of an important issue that concerns Iraq.

The minister went to Paris where President d’Estaing told him that France had accurate intelligence information about an eminent Israeli aerial attack within weeks to destroy Iraq’s nuclear reactor. The president added that intelligence services however failed to find out the exact date of the attack, adding that US intelligence is monitoring the Israeli preparations.

Aziz asked the president what France can do for Iraq in this case, to which the French president replied: “Nothing, we have informed you.”

At the beginning of the following month, Israel destroyed the reactor which Iraq had obtained from France.

The general was right. The world today is far scarier than yesterday’s. ISIS’ loss in Iraq will bring back its sleeper cells and lone wolf methods.

Once in a while, a new tyrant will pop up demanding his right to sleep on a nuclear pillow.