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In Wake of North Korean ICBM Tests Trump’s Resolve Hardening

In the wake of a July 4 ICBM test by North Korea, the U.S. is likely to take new steps to contain the country’s development of its missile programs. Those steps would include sanctions against China and some Southeast Asian countries in an attempt to starve North Korea of cash to develop its ICBM and nuclear programs.

“The ICBM test will only harden Trump’s resolve on North Korea, which was already hardening after Otto Warmbier’s savage death,” said New York-based political analyst and Asian specialist Sean King, Senior Vice President of Park Strategies.

King added that the Trump administration would pursue much harsher sanctions not only against North Korea but also against those enabling the Kim Jong-un regime, such as Beijing and Moscow.

“Washington should further increase secondary sanctions on mainland Chinese entities and banks that front for North Korea and dry up whatever North Korean hard currency earnings there are,” King said, adding that some Southeast Asian countries would also be on the watch list.

“Too many Southeast Asian countries have for too long looked the other way,” he added.

At a recent meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump vowed that he would increase pressure on North Korea. The three leaders agreed to make coordinated efforts to push Beijing to play a bigger role in heading off North Korean provocations.

Trump expressed his intention to consider sanctions against Chinese companies that do business with North Korea, which would cut the major sources of hard currency to Pyongyang. However, analysts ruled out the possibility of immediate pre-emptive military action at this time.

“Pre-emptive military action is not practical unless we are convinced an attack is imminent, even though we’d eventually win any war with North Korea,” King said. “Hundreds of thousands of South Koreans could die by conventional means in this process.”

Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, said that Washington must further increase coordination with its partners in the region and send a clear message that talks are a viable option. Meanwhile, the administration must make it clear that the U.S. would continue to increase pressure through additional sanctions and work with other countries to improve the enforcement of existing penalties.


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