While the discussion of the Syrian problems in the UN is delaying the adoption of the next resolution on the North-Korean nuclear program, the USA and its allies are taking a series of measures to bring pressure on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Although the sixth nuclear test, widely announced by the US and Korean intelligence services, did not take place on August 10, the day the Workers’ Party of Korea was established, this fact does not impede increasing power, making forceful statements and preparing sanctions.
Let us begin with the sanctions preparation, which might be more rigorous than the previous ones. This was announced by the Assistant US Secretary of State Daniel Russel on October 12 during a meeting with the journalists. Answering the question about China’s position on the sanctions, he announced that it was important to achieve progress in this matter (in the author’s opinion, this demonstrates a lack of progress). Russel also expressed confidence that the new draft resolution of the UN Security Council in respect of the sanctions would ensure significant progress in tightening pressure on the North: it was important that all the UN members would take additional measures to protect their interests against the North Korean threat. Thus, America relies on unilateral measures, not on the UN Security Council.
Within the framework of such measures, the House of Representatives of the US Congress has initiated a draft law to block Pyongyang’s access to the international financial system. Individuals related to the provision of the interbank cooperation means to the North in order to implement various payments are supposed to be included in the list of those subjected to sanctions.
One such international interbank system for data and payment transfer is SWIFT used by about 10 thousand banks from more than 200 countries. Every day, more than a million transactions are effected via SWIFT. If the North is excluded from it, it will block the receipt of any funds by Pyongyang: either money spent on nuclear program development, or payments for exported coal, or the transfer of funds earned by the North Koreans abroad.
The USA is also working on limiting the North Korean export of coal and iron ore. The North’s annual income from selling coal amounts to 1 billion dollars, which is one-third of the total exports of North Korea. The major part of coal is exported to China, whom America is trying to pressurize, stating that increased enforcement on the North in cooperation with the USA meets China’s interests (it means that the North Korean threat stirs up the interest of the Republic of Korea and Japan in the creation of their own nuclear shield, which is undesirable for China).
The economic sanctions are followed by a diplomatic statement. On September 21, 2016, the Foreign Affairs Ministers of the forty member states of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) urged Pyongyang to curb its nuclear program and fulfil international obligations in the framework of the joint statement of the six-party negotiations’ participants of 2005. According to the statement following the results of the Ministers’ meeting, the North is the sole country that has conducted a nuclear test in the 21st century.
At the same meeting, the participants urged 8 countries to sign and validate the CTBT, whose approval was required for the treaty to enter into force. These are the DPRK, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, Pakistan and the USA.
Almost at the same time, on September 28, Russel said that the United States called on the countries of the world to reduce the level of diplomatic and economic cooperation with Pyongyang, or to cancel the planned contacts in an effort to maximize the isolation of the DPRK from the international community. According to Russell, owing to the efforts of the United States 75 countries have condemned the North Korean nuclear test, and some countries have cancelled the scheduled meetings with officials from the DPRK.
Park Geun-hye goes further in her speeches stating that there is no sense in carrying on a dialogue with Pyongyang now. In the past, when they were engaged in the dialogue, Pyongyang used that time to secretly develop nuclear weapons, and, thus, one should not repeat the mistakes.
Let us compare this with the Russia’s position – On September 23, during the speech at the 71st session of the UN General Assembly the Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov announced that the North should stop nuclear tests and urged Pyongyang to return to the denuclearization regime. At the same time, Lavrov pointed out the inadmissibility of the use of this situation as a pretext for the massive militarization of North-East Asia, the deployment of another position area of the US global missile defense system, and noted that all the parties concerned should refrain from the further escalation of the tension and choose political and diplomatic settlement of the nuclear problem on the Korean Peninsula through the six-party talks.
Sabre-rattling still continues. On September 26, the armed forces of the Republic of Korea and the USA conducted military training in the Eastern Sea. The Parties trained launching strikes on DPRK land installations using computer modelling. Three South-Korean 7,600-ton ships, a 1,200-ton submarine, the Lynx anti-submarine helicopter, and P-3 patrol aircraft participated in the maneuvers. The American party was represented by the 9,500-ton Spruance destroyer and a P-3 aircraft. The parties trained missile strikes from the ships, precision-guided attack, tracking and tracing of the North Korean submarines.
From October 3 to 21, the Republic of Korea, the USA, New Zealand and NATO will conduct joint Red Flag air-force training exercises at the American Eielson Air Force Base in the state of Alaska. In the course of the training exercises, they will hone the joint strikes of the South Korean and American air forces on the North’s nuclear and other key military facilities using guided bomb units. The South Korean party sent six F-15K destroyers and two C-130 Hercules transport aircraft. The air forces of the two states will train fire support operations for the land forces and air-to-air operations.
Since October 10, the Republic of Korea and the USA have launched joint naval training exercises, Invincible Spirit 2016, with the participation of 10 war vessels including the Aegis equipped with the early detection system and the Ronald Reagan nuclear aircraft carrier. The large-scale South Korean-American maneuvers will last till October 15 both in the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan, and they will be dedicated to the training of surgical strikes on the important military facilities and command centers and extermination of the enemy’s special forces. Similar exercises were held in July and November 2010, after the North Korean artillery shelling of Yeonpyeong Island and the sinking of the Cheonan patrol ship. The George Washington aircraft carrier participated in it, but the current training is even more large-scale.
Invincible Spirit should not be confused with Invincible Shield. These joint military maneuvers of the air forces of the Republic of Korea, Great Britain, and the USA will be held for the first time ever from November 4 to 10. They will also be aimed at training for air strikes on the key military facilities of North Korea, the destruction of the leadership’s residence, and the interception of enemy aircraft. The new element in this case is the participation of Great Britain, which plans to direct four Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft, the Voyager refueling tanker, and C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft to the Republic of Korea.
Germany has sent several dozen TAURUS air-to-surface aerodynamic missiles. These missiles are used to inflict high-accuracy strikes on the enemy’s protected facilities. They are able to detect, track and engage targets, punching 6-meter wide concrete walls of the bunkers. A representative of the Ministry of National Defense of the Republic of Korea reported this on October 15. By 2017, Germany will have delivered 170 missiles to the Republic of Korea in installments. In addition, due to the recent nuclear test by North Korea and its continuing launches of ballistic missiles, it has been decided to acquire additional 90 TAURUS missiles. Incidentally, the expenses incurred acquiring and installing one such a missile on a South Korean destroyer will cost 2 billion Korean wons or 1.7 million dollars.
What is the reaction to such a policy? Should American engage in provocative acts, Pyongyang is ready for the new attacks. This was announced by the Foreign Affairs Minister of the DPRK Ri Yong-ho while presenting his speech before the participants of the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Venezuela. Ri Yong-ho also noted that the fifth nuclear test was “a fair measure to protect the country from the acts of provocation by the United States.” As for the attempts to persuade China, we will publish a separate article on this issue.
Konstantin Asmolov, Ph.D. in History, Chief Research Fellow at the Center for Korean Studies of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.