North Korean official vows frequent missile tests as tensions escalate

Dan Mc Culloch                                                       Tuesday

The administration "believes the most productive pathway forward is dialogue among the family of nations that can isolate and pressure North Korea into abandoning permanently and dismantling" its nuclear and missile programmes, he said.

Here's how events have unfolded.

On Monday, Pence traveled to the tense Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea, where he warned North Korea's leaders that after years of testing the US and South Korea with its nuclear ambitions, "the era of strategic patience is over". Most importantly, China putting the screws to North Korea and basically threatening this current regime. Top of the agenda was a key component of South Korea's defenses against its northern neighbors' aggression - the THAAD missile interception system.

Three days later, February 5, the United States and its East Asian ally Japan successfully downed a test medium-range ballistic missile with a new interceptor launched from a guided-missile destroyer.

But officials at Pentagon are believed to be unsure how North Korea would respond if USA the shoots down a test missile. AP reporter Jonathan Lemire reported from NY.

Trump is clearly on the mind of the North Korean leadership.

Things took a twist worthy of a movie plot later that month.

Pence's visit, full of Cold War symbolism, came amid increasing tensions and heated rhetoric on the Korean Peninsula.

For its part, China made a plea for a return to negotiations.

Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed in February to have Pence and Aso open an economic dialogue.

"From my understanding, we haven't had any business with the North Korean market since 2016; North Korea has never ever been a significant focus of ours", stated an official, who only provided his last name, Gu.

"We are with you 100 per cent", he said.

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"We support the United States putting pressure on Chinese banks to ensure that the elites in North Korea can not continue to live the comfortable lives that they now do while the people of North Korea are suffering".

Five days later, Pyongyang again ratcheted tensions by testing a rocket engine, one which showed "meaningful" signs of progress, according to South Korean officials.

"There has been heightened tension between the United States, the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea".

Or, if the USA learned that North Korea was preparing to test an intercontinental ballistic missile - and it had confidence in where that missile would be launched - it could take out the vehicle, or try to shoot it down.

China's foreign minister recently likened the USA and North Korea to two speeding trains hurtling toward each other, an analogy that would seem to place China in the role of helpless bystander. "It seems Trump could be more willing to cut a deal with North Korea than Obama was", Koh said. "If the USA comes up with a unsafe military option, then the first card is in our hands, then we'll deal with it with our pre-emptive strike", he said.

His national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said the US would rely on its allies as well as Chinese leadership to resolve the issues with North Korea. Concern about the North Korean response is what prevented Mr Richard Nixon from a military strike in 1969 when the North shot down a U.S. plane, killing all 31 Americans on board.

North Korea makes use of "weak transshipment regulations, falsified cargo declarations and shipping documents, reflagging and disguised materials to import banned materials", according to a 2015 report for the European Union Institute for Security Studies.

During the large scale military parade new missiles and military hardware were wheeled out in front of the North Korean public "in a show of military strength", according to US today.

China's foreign ministry said on Wednesday that it was seriously concerned by recent comments made by North Korean officials warning of further missile tests and the possibility of nuclear war.

General Gary Luck, a former commander of United States forces in South Korea, estimates that a new Korean war could cause one million casualties and US$1 trillion (S$1.4 trillion) in damage.

"The USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group, which includes Aegis-equipped destroyers, is headed for the Korean peninsula", the report noted.

"We will not rest and will not relent until we obtain the objective of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula".

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