China's Xi says willing to put South Korea ties back on track

On 14 May, North Korea launched its latest ballistic missile called Hwasong-12, which many experts believe could be the reclusive state's most advanced missile yet. The North Koreans sent a rocket high into space, testing the conditions an intercontinental ballistic missile would need to survive and signaling the outlaw nation's potential to destabilize global security.

Among the possible measures could be an oil embargo, trade bans and targeted sanctions on North Korean individuals and companies, but these hinge on China's willingness to apply such measures.

Washington-US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, the first Indian-American to hold a cabinet rank, pledged that the US plans to "tighten the screws" on North Korea's nuclear ambitions.

The North has vowed to develop a missile mounted with a nuclear warhead that can strike the United States mainland, saying the programme is necessary to counter American aggression.

The following day South Korea's Defense Minister, Han Min-koo, told the South Korean Parliament that North Korea's ballistic missile program appeared to be advancing faster than expected. "I think it is possible".

In a separate meeting with Lee on Friday, China's top diplomat Yang Jiechi said China "hopes that South Korea can respect China's major concerns (and) appropriately resolve the THAAD issue", Xinhua reported.

Its latest ballistic missile firing was also the first one to be detected by the THAAD, the advanced USA missile defense system, which is already operational in South Korea, and can intercept ballistic missiles launched by the regime of Kim Jong-un.

South Korean President Moon Jae-In on May 14 condemned the North's latest missile launch as a "reckless provocation", staged days after his inauguration in an apparent test of the new administration. The North has ignored calls to curb its weapons programs, defending them as necessary to counter U.S. hostility, Aljazeera reported.

Hong said South Korea had not yet received official word from the United States on whether Seoul should pay for an anti-missile USA radar system that has been deployed outside Seoul.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Thursday that Washington's basic policy on North Korea is not seeking a regime change, not invading it and guaranteeing its regime. "Clearly, there is a lot more leverage that China has, and we would like China to use", he said.

NYT sources speculated the WannaCry ransomware attack might have been timed to coincide with last weekend's missile launch as a demonstration of North Korean power, or possibly even as pushback against China, which has been applying an extraordinary amount of pressure against its client state in Pyongyang of late. Hecker estimates that Pyongyang has enough plutonium and highly enriched uranium to produce 20 to 25 nuclear weapons and said there is "no conceivable way" the USA could destroy them all with a preemptive strike.

  • Leroy Wright