Kim Jong-un’s momentAs signs of North Korea preparing for another nuclear test are increasingly clear, the tension on the Korean Peninsula is steadily rising. The North has often made military provocations around April 15, the anniversary of the birth of its founder Kim Il Sung. A U.S. satellite captured activities that appeared to be preparation for a nuclear test in Punggyeri, North Hamkyong. The U.S. sent a WC-135 reconnaissance aircraft specializing in radiation detection to their airbase in Okinawa. All these signs suggest the strong likelihood of a sixth nuclear test in the North.
But it is up to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to order the test. If he makes the wrong decision, he may pay a price he has never foreseen. U.S. President Donald Trump already ordered the USS Carl Vinson, a U.S. Navy Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, to head toward the Korean Peninsula. The supercarrier is expected to arrive in the East Sea this weekend, along with a nuclear submarine. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Trump said the deployment of the Carl Vinson Strike Group was aimed at thwarting North Korea from making additional provocations.
China also appears to be taking a new path. A number of state mouthpieces are vehemently criticizing its ally’s nuclear test as if to reflect Chinese President Xi Jinping’s deepening concerns.
If the rift between Beijing and Pyongyang deepens, China may levy its harshest ever economic sanctions on North Korea, including cutting off oil supplies. In Wednesday’s editorial, the Global Times, China’s most belligerent state-run newspaper, wrote that if North Korea conducts a nuclear test again, China would support UN sanctions, including cutting off oil supplies.
Trump is trying to cajole China into putting more pressure on the North than ever before. In a telephone conversation with Xi, Trump offered him a carrot: if Beijing helps with the North Korean problem, Uncle Sam will not complain too much about the trade deficit. This is another reason for China to put unprecedented pressure on the North.
If North Korea conducts another nuclear test, it has crossed the point of no return. Once it is equipped with the ability to attack the U.S. mainland with ICBMs with miniaturized warheads, it has crossed a red line. When that happens, North Korea must prepare itself for a military attack from the U.S.
If not a missile attack, there are many ways to destroy the North Korean regime. If China stops oil going to the North, it will perish. Kim Jong-un must think again.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 14, Page 34