North Korea Politics Guide
Analysts weigh the possible offers North Korea's leader could make later this month in Vietnam.
The United States has no diplomatic relations with North Korea, so there is no embassy in Washington, but for years the two countries have relied on the “New York channel,” an office inside North Korea’s mission to the United Nations, to handle the unavoidable parts of our nonexistent relationship. The office has, among other things, negotiated the release of prisoners and held informal talks about nuclear tensions. In April, I contacted the New York channel and requested permission to visit Pyongyang, the capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Wednesday afternoon, nearly the entire membership of the US Senate packed into a bus and headed to the White House grounds for an unprecedented classified briefing from top Trump administration officials on North Korea policy. Such a huge meeting, on such a volatile topic, had people wondering — was the United States about to announce some risky new policy on North Korea? Perhaps some kind of scary military escalation, or even a preemptive strike on a nuclear-armed power?
It’s been a scary few days on the Korean Peninsula. In just the past two days, North Korea’s reclusive government has held a massive military parade, flubbed a missile test, and threatened nuclear war with the US. Meanwhile, the Trump administration, which recently ordered the US Navy to deploy an aircraft carrier strike group to the waters off North Korea, sent Vice President Mike Pence to the North Korean border to warn that Washington’s era of “strategic patience” toward the North had ended — a comment many interpreted as a veiled military threat to Pyongyang.
Firing back with ‘unprecedented’ provocations against joint South Korean and American annual military exercises, Kim Jung Un could make a dangerously wrong move.
There's still plenty of doubt about whether North Korea did in fact detonate a sophisticated hydrogen bomb on Wednesday local time, or if the explosion that triggered a 5.1-magnitude earthquake was a nuclear test more akin to previous ones in 2006, 2009, and 2013. Even as the UN Security Council held an emergency session on Wednesday, the White House said initial US findings were "not consistent with North Korean claims of a successful hydrogen bomb test"—something that would have represented a major ramp-up in North Korea's nuclear capabilities.
North Korea said it successfully tested a powerful nuclear bomb on Wednesday, drawing criticism from world governments even though the United States and weapons experts voiced doubt the device set off by the isolated nation was as advanced as Pyongyang claimed. The underground explosion shook the earth so hard that it registered as a seismic event with U.S. earthquake monitors. It put pressure on China to rein in neighboring North Korea.
Photographs showing a North Korean missile launched from a submarine were manipulated by state propagandists and the country may be years away from developing such technology, analysts and a top U.S. military official said on Tuesday.
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