US missile defense plans to zap North Korean threats

Andrew Cummings
July 18, 2017

On July 17, his government offered to hold talks with North Korea.

China has friendly relations with North Korea and trades with it, a point of contention with the US.

China is North Korea's only major diplomatic ally and economic partner, and the USA and others have called on Beijing to use whatever leverage it has to pressure North Korea into curbing nuclear tests and missile launches that violate United Nations sanctions.

South Korea's Red Cross proposed separate talks be held in an effort to reunite families separated by the border.

But the isolated country, in the past, has repeatedly refused to engage in talks with Seoul unless the South hands over 12 waitresses who defected to Seoul a year ago.

Last week U.S. President Donald Trump denounced China's trade with North Korea, saying it had grown nearly 40 percent in the first quarter, and cast doubt on whether Beijing was helping to counter the threat from North Korea.

When Moon visited Washington after being elected president, he and Trump said they were open to renewed dialogue with North Korea but only under circumstances that would lead to Pyongyang giving up its weapons programs. In April, gas prices in North Korea jumped on reports that China may be mulling an oil embargo.

Cho urged the restoration of military and government hotlines across the border, which had been cut by the DPRK previous year in response to South Korea's imposing economic sanctions after a nuclear test by Pyongyang. The village sits along the border between the two sides.

Such measures have been given full support by the Korean bishops. North Korea says the South abducted the 12 waitresses and the restaurant manager and has demanded their return, but the South has said the group chose to defect of its own free will. After the initial price surges in early July, prices of both diesel and gasoline have stabilized, probably because North Korea has encouraged fuel smuggling across the Chinese border, according to defector Kang Mi-jin who is in communication with traders in North Korea.

Beijing has been joined by Moscow in its "suspension-for-suspension" proposal, in which North Korea suspends weapons tests, while South Korea and the U.S. defer further large-scale military exercises. The stamps were launched at the end of last month to coincide with the anniversary of the Korean War. In the Asia-Pacific region, anxiety is highest among Pyongyang's closest neighbors - Japan, the Philippines and South Korea, where around 60% or more say they are very concerned.

Although the exercise was planned months ago, it is being seen as a response to North Korea's missile test a week ago.

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