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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Friday, April 20, 2018

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U.S. intelligence baffled over Kim Jong Un’s nuclear silence

Growing puzzled over Kim Jong Un

Share on Facebook November 26, 2017, Reporter : BNN, Reader : 529

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WASHINGTON, U.S. - North Korean President Kim Jong Un’s lack of nuclear provocation over the last couple of months has puzzled U.S. officials, especially since the rhetoric between the two countries has been quite aggressive.

Reports recently stated that U.S. defense and intelligence officials are growing puzzled over Kim Jong Un not testing a ballistic missile in nearly two months. 

While officials believed that Kim Jong Un might have a few surprise provocations lined up during U.S. President Donald Trump’s Asia visit - things didn’t go according to expectations.

Officials, however, are at the ready, believing that all of this could change at any time and Kim Jong Un could resume aggressive weapons testing.

Experts have stated that one of biggest worries for the U.S. military is that the North Korean regime might live up to its threat of conducting an atmospheric nuclear test. 

Further, officials have pointed out that the regime has a track record of following through on its threats on weapons testing.

Recent reports stated that U.S. intelligence has suggested that North Korea's longstanding underground nuclear test site at Punggye-ri has been damaged by underground seismic activity and may be unusable in certain sections. 

However, if the regime turns to above ground testing, officials have said that it would raise the prospect of a test looking like a potential attack, especially if Kim Jong Un conducts the test using a missile with a warhead.

Experts warned that the U.S. would only have minutes to determine if a missile is actually carrying a live warhead and to decide whether to attack it on the launch pad, or wait to try to shoot it down during the initial boost phase of flight.

So far, senior officials have claimed that the U.S. does not have a specific policy of pre-emptive strikes prior to the launch and if the U.S. launches one, North Korea would have the opportunity to claim it has been attacked. 

However, if it waits until the boost phase and shoots a missile down in "self-defense" - it would mean the U.S. would have to ensure it has all its assets and intelligence in place to be able to target the missile. 

According to the U.S., it now maintains around the clock “flexible response” options to try to ensure all elements are ready to shoot down a threatening missile at any time.

Defense officials claim that presidential approval is not mandatory for a "self-defense" shoot down to protect the U.S. or its allies. 

In case the U.S. learns of an imminent or expected North Korean launch, top commanders in Asia and the Pacific, along with the Pentagon and U.S. Strategic Command would quickly gather for a secure meeting via video or phone to assess if there is a threat to the U.S. or allies and what if any actions should be taken.

So far, since February, North Korea has fired 22 missiles without active warheads during 15 tests. 

U.S. officials have claimed that North Korea is continuing to develop its missiles, rocket fuel and engines, as well as targeting and guidance systems. 

The U.S. believes it also may be able to put a miniaturized warhead on a missile sometime in 2018.

This gives the country the theoretical capability to launch a missile with a warhead atop that could attack the U.S.

Since North Korea has not conducted another missile test since September, several U.S. officials have assessed that Kim Jong Un is feeling political pressure from China. 

With reports of shortages of fuel supplies emerging - some analysts have theorized that Kim Jong Un might have stopped missile tests to avoid angering the Chinese leadership.

And yet, while he might not have launched a missile test, Kim Jong Un might still have achieved his essential goal.

He has successfully tested all components of a long-range ballistic missile and conducted successful underground nuclear tests.

A U.S. official has stated, “He has demonstrated to Trump he is a nuclear state and Trump can't do much about it.”

Officials in the U.S. also believe that the current U.S. military "shows of force" through bomber flights or maritime exercises are closely watched by Kim Jong Un, but they don't see them fundamentally causing a change in North Korea behaviour yet.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, a Chinese official said that China is temporarily closing its main road connection with North Korea.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the China-North Korea Friendship Bridge across the Yalu River at the Chinese city of Dandong will be closed while North Korea repairs the approach road on its side.

Geng said that ‘‘after the maintenance, the bridge will reopen for passage,’’ but gave no date for the reopening or other details.

The bridge closure comes after state-owned airline Air China suspended flights Tuesday between Beijing and North Korea due to a lack of demand.

The move deepened North Korea’s isolation amid mounting UN sanctions.

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