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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Friday, December 15, 2017

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Who will curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions before it’s too late?

North Korea’s nuclear capabilities

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North Korea's disarmament is a "lost cause," according to U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.> Big News Network

In remarks to the Council on Foreign Relations think-tank, Clapper said expecting the isolated country to work towards denuclearisation was merely wishful thinking.

“I think the notion of getting the North Koreans to denuclearise is probably a lost cause,” he stated. He added that a realistic best case scenario for the U.S. is some kind of a cap, instead of a ban, on North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.

Calling the North "paranoid," Clapper believed "the notion of giving up their nuclear capability, whatever it is, is a nonstarter with them.”

Clapper added, "That [nuclear program] is their ticket to survival."

The United States along with close ally South Korea has pushed for increased sanctions against the country following its recent nuclear missile test in September this year. 

U.S. and South Korean officials believe the country tested a Musudan missile, which has an estimated range of up to 2,500 miles and could reach South Korea, Japan and Guam. 

U.S. President Barack Obama has said any talks with the North are conditional on Pyongyang first making some tangible commitment towards denuclearisation.

Surging prices of coal, however, are working against international efforts to sanction the North. Coal is one of the major products North Korea exports to China, accounting for over 40 percent of its total exports, and the rising prices are boosting funds for the country's weapons program. 
The director of national intelligence's remarks will undoubtedly weigh on the U.S. government, although, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby stressed that “nothing has changed” with the Obama administration's policy of pushing the North - through a toughened sanction regime - to give up its nuclear weapons.

In the wake of Pyongyang's missile test last month, which was its biggest till date, senior leaders from the U.S., Japan and South Korea held trilateral talks on Thursday in Tokyo in an effort to tackle North Korea's mission to develop its nuclear arsenal.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, South Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Lim Sung-nam and Japan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama agreed to work together to put more pressure on the reclusive country to abandon its nuclear programme.

Blinken also refuted Clapper's assessment on North Korea. “We will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state. We will not accept North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons, period,” the U.S. deputy secretary of state said.

 "We are focused on increasing the pressure on North Korea with one purpose: to bring it back to the table to negotiate in good faith. Denuclearisation. That is the objective."

Separately, U.S. and South Korea have also held a ‘two-plus-two’ meeting of foreign and defence ministers in Washington, during which they positioned the improvement in North Korea’s nuclear and missile capability as "a direct threat" while also announcing specific policies to deal with the situation. 

The policies include a U.S. pledge to continue providing South Korea with extended deterrence, the main pillar of which is a nuclear umbrella. The two nations have also agreed to establish high-level dialogue aimed at discussing deterrence-enhancing measures. Another policy is to deploy a state-of-the-art U.S. missile defense system with the U.S. forces stationed in South Korea as soon as possible.

North Korean provocations this year include two nuclear tests and the launch of 24 ballistic missiles. The country has shown no willingness to engage in dialogue on the nuclear issue, and therefore, Washington’s diplomatic efforts have focused on engaging other nations to isolate North Korea and strictly implement the international sanctions.

China, North Korea's lone major ally, and Russia have also pushed for a resumption of six-party talks on denuclearisation in North Korea. The talks, which also involve the United States, Japan and South Korea have been on hold since 2008.

And despite all the divisions and conflicts among nuclear countries, there is one thing that unites them – their nuclear weapons. Russia and the U.S., India and Pakistan, North Korea and Israel, along with China, France and the United Kingdom are working to avoid a resolution calling for a global conference to establish a binding “legal process” to ban the manufacture, possession, stockpiling and use of the weapons. The resolution, which is non-binding, could win as many as 120 votes in the 193-member UN General Assembly.

South Korea, U.S. hold military exercise practice 
South Korea and the United States recently held a military exercise practicing "surgical strikes" against North Korea's nuclear and missile facilities, according to reports. 

Seoul and Washington have focused on sending their special forces into the country should there be a conflict in the region.

North leader condemns 'disease' of imports

North Korea's Kim Jong Un has called for an end to the worship of imports, calling the popular preference for foreign-made goods a "disease" that must be eradicated. 

Kim said North Korean workers must "uphold the honor of the fatherland and the know-how of the people, and with pride and courage make with their own hands products better than [other countries], thereby eradicating the disease of imports." 

This is ironical coming from a leader known for his love for Swiss watches, British fabrics, European treats and French wine. 

The family’s ex-sushi chef Kenji Fujimoto said Kim once bragged about drinking “10 bottle of Bordeaux” during a dinner with attractive Korean women. 

The Pyongyang dictator’s weight is also said to have soared to 20 stone over the past year and he is believed to have developed weight-related health problems.

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