Biden team can’t launch North Korea’s missile program like Obama did


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Prepare for North Korea’s seventh nuclear test. Yes, hermit dictator Kim Jong Un is back. On Thursday, he delivered a speech marking the 69th anniversary of the “victory” over the United States in the Korean War. It really was an armistice, and North Korea had the small end of the stick, but whatever.

Kim said “the nuclear war deterrent is also fully ready to mobilize.” Translation: Kim can probably order the first nuclear test since 2017 at any time.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Joe Biden
(AP Pictures)

The State Department warned in April that North Korea may be preparing for a nuclear weapons test. During President Trump’s 2018 denuclearization diplomacy, North Korea closed some facilities at its Punggye-ri tunnel test site. Now satellite photos – which North Korea obviously wants you to see – show a refurbished site ready for a test.

Kim is already upset with the new South Korean government and the summer slate of US military exercises with the South Korean military, so there will be no shortage of bogus reasons for the test.

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President Biden has no talent as commander-in-chief. However, Biden cannot afford to put North Korea on the back burner like Barack Obama did. Here’s why.

President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye meet in the Oval Office of the White House, May 7, 2013.

President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye meet in the Oval Office of the White House, May 7, 2013.
(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

North Korea developed its nuclear arsenal during the Obama-Biden policy of “strategic patience” and tested its largest 140 kiloton weapon in September 2017. The best estimate is that North Korea could build around 40 nuclear weapons and could have 10-20 nuclear warheads for medium-range missiles.

Kim won’t stop at a nuclear test. He yearns for a no-joke long-range missile that can reach the continental United States.

Trump’s fiery diplomacy in the summer of 2017 pushed Kim Jong Un to stop nuclear and long-range missile testing after November 2017. North Korea did not test in 2018. True, after 2019 they have fired a lot of older, shorter-range missiles. missiles, and you can read all about them on the terrific North Korea Missiles site run by the CSIS Missile Defense Project.

However, the crucial long-range tests needed to mate nuclear weapons with the missiles that guide, survive atmospheric re-entry, and reach US territory simply did not happen, thank goodness. The halt in testing has left North Korea far from having intercontinental capability.

President Joe Biden arrives at Osan Air Base May 20, 2022 in Pyeongtaek, South Korea.  (Lee Jin-Man/Pool/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden arrives at Osan Air Base May 20, 2022 in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. (Lee Jin-Man/Pool/Getty Images)

The problem now is that Kim is not intimidated by Biden and most likely it suits China very well to see Kim Jong Un pissing off the United States.

Worse still, experts believe North Korea is aiming to develop a nuclear deterrent triad of missiles, aircraft and submarine-launched nuclear weapons.

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What the hell? A nuclear triad is a horrible investment given that North Korea is poor and starvation-prone. But that would insulate North Korea from external threats.

Remember that North Korea is a client state of China. China itself is waging a massive campaign of nuclear modernization under Xi Jinping. China has opened new plutonium warhead production facilities that will help China double its arsenal. (Remember this when thinking about the supply chain.)

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping hold a glass to toast during a banquet at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 26, 2018.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Chinese President Xi Jinping hold a glass to toast during a banquet at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on March 26, 2018.
(Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

Four years ago, the United States was confident it could take out a few “rogue” North Korean missiles if necessary. A key vulnerability is that most are liquid fueled, requiring time to prepare for launch.

“Remember that missile infrastructure is not just missiles,” Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Paul Selva hinted at a roundtable with reporters in Washington in early 2018. “If you’re the poor sergeant who has to go, come out and fire the missile, and I’ll blow up your barracks, you’re not available to go do your job.”

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The United States also has ground-based missile interceptors in California and Alaska designed to strike and knock out small numbers of North Korean missiles before they reach the United States.

President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi on Feb. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi on Feb. 27, 2019. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

If North Korea develops advanced solid-fuel weapons and a larger arsenal, the problems for American and Asian allies increase. A larger North Korean arsenal could one day overwhelm the defenses of the west coast.

So the only answer would be more nuclear deterrence. Remember that the United States kept tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea from 1958 to 1991. Six F-35 fighter jets, capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons, conducted 10 days of exercises in South Korea in July, maybe as a reminder.

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You can see why Trump tried his combo of threats, diplomacy and successful real estate development visions to get the nuclear talks going again. Waving riches in front of the young dictator to tempt him to reconciliation was worth it.

Unfortunately, Kim Jong Un and his supporters in China all seem ready to escalate the nuclear confrontation. For Team Biden, time is running out.

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