So what is South Korean President Moon Jae-in going to do after this latest provocation? Just last month he said a red line for him would be if North Korea developed a nuclear weapon that could be outfitted on an ICBM and that is what the Kim regime is claiming they have done:
North Korea said Sunday that it has successfully conducted a test of a hydrogen bomb that can be loaded into its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in what could be the most powerful detonation.
In an “important” announcement, North Korea said that it carried out the sixth nuclear test at 12:00 p.m. (Pyongyang Time), calling it a “perfect” success.
The announcement came hours after an artificial earthquake with a 5.7 magnitude was detected near North Korea’s nuclear site in the northeastern area. [Yonhap]
Here is what Moon Jae-in’s response is to crossing a “red line”, more sanctions:
South Korea strongly condemned North Korea’s latest nuclear test Sunday, vowing to push for fresh and the most powerful sanctions by the U.N. Security Council to completely isolate the communist state.
“President Moon Jae-in said the country will never allow North Korea to continue advancing its nuclear and missile technologies,” Moon’s key security adviser Chung Eui-yong said at a press briefing on the outcome of the National Security Council (NSC) meeting held earlier in the day. [Yonhap]
The Japanese Prime Minister’s word are in line with Moon’s in regards to taking North Korea to the UN Security Council:
The nuclear test was confirmed by the Japanese government, which said the North had conducted the blast, but criticism of the test was rife around the globe.
In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe slammed the test as “absolutely unacceptable” and vowed a tough response at the United Nations. [Japan Times]
Some how I doubt the Kim regime is impressed by threats of taking them to the UN Security Council. I guess we will see if the nuclear test will be enough to get the ROK government to move the blockade preventing the installment of the remaining four THAAD launchers in Seongju.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un reportedly inspecting the loading of a hydrogen bomb onto a new intercontinental ballistic missile, according to North Korea’s state media, a claim that some outside experts doubt but one that intensifies already high levels of concern on the Korean Peninsula. [AP/YONHAP]
It appears this and other issues are reaching a boiling point with President Trump who heavily criticized President Moon
It appears that President Trump is about to put significant pressure on South Korea over the US-ROK Free Trade Agreement despite the nuclear test:
On trade, the president’s top economic advisers remain deeply divided over a possible withdrawal from the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement, as negotiators from both countries struggle to rewrite the five-year-old deal.
In recent days, a frustrated Mr. Trump has pushed his staff to take bold action against a host of governments, including the one in Seoul, that he has accused of unfair trade practices. But many of his more moderate advisers, including the chairman of the National Economic Council, Gary D. Cohn, believe that such a move could prompt a trade war that could hurt the United States economy.
An industry publication, Inside U.S. Trade, first reported late Friday that the administration was considering withdrawing from the treaty as early as next week.
“Discussions are ongoing, but we have no announcements at this time,” a White House spokeswoman said in an email.
But Mr. Trump, asked during a trip to the Gulf Coast on Saturday whether he was talking with his advisers about the trade deal, said: “I am. It’s very much on my mind.”
The idea of potentially withdrawing seems to have been prompted by the breakdown in negotiations between South Korean officials and the United States Trade Representative, Robert E. Lighthizer, an American official with knowledge of the situation said. [New York Times]
I think a country that should be concerned about US economic retaliation is China if President Trump follows through on a threat to cut all trade with nations doing business with North Korea:
In recent days, the president has said more sanctions, coupled with implied and explicit threats of military action, would motivate Pyongyang to change its behavior.
The Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, said on Sunday that he planned to draft a new sanctions package that would cut economic ties with anyone who did business with North Korea.
“There’s a lot we can do to cut them off economically, much more than we’ve done,” Mr. Mnuchin said, speaking on “Fox News Sunday.” He called Pyongyang’s actions “unacceptable” and stressed the need for stronger steps.
Mr. Trump went so far on Sunday as to threaten to stop “all trade with any country doing business with North Korea,” an extremely unlikely prospect that, if carried out, would have cataclysmic consequences for the global economy. China is just one of the dozens of countries that trade with the North. [New York Times]
With 90% of trade into North Korea going through China it is pretty obvious the only way for sanctions to work is to focus on China. However, the consequences of an embargo on Chinese made products would have significant repercussions on the US economy until manufacturers could reestablish product lines in other countries. Because of this it seems the sanctions on China need to be incremental to give manufacturers enough time to move out of China.
Here is what China had to say about the nuclear test:
China urged North Korea to stop its “wrong” actions, after the reclusive said it had a successful test of hydrogen bomb that can be mounted onto its inter-continental ballistic missiles on Sunday.
In a statement on its website, China’s Foreign Ministry said China resolutely opposed and strongly condemned North Korea’s actions, and urged the country to respect U.N. Security Council resolutions.
North Korea “has ignored the international community’s widespread opposition, again carrying out a nuclear test. China’s government expresses resolute opposition and strong condemnation toward this,” the ministry said in the statement. [Korea Times]
Judging by this statement it doesn’t appear China is prepared to do much against North Korea in response to the nuclear test. The coming days should be interesting to see how the Trump administration responds. It is pretty clear increased sanctions are going to happen, but will there be any military response as well?