North Korea keeps building better missiles. How should the US respond? – PBS NewsHour

 In World

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Today, President Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke by phone about the growing threat posed by North Korea. The two agreed on the importance of further action in the wake of North Korea’s second major missile test this month.

Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, begins our coverage.

MARGARET WARNER: North Korean state television hailed Friday’s launch as a national triumph.

WOMAN (through interpreter): The supreme leader proudly said that this test demonstrates our ability to attack at any time from any place, proving that all parts of the U.S. territory are within our firing range.

MARGARET WARNER: The intercontinental ballistic missile traveled for 620 miles, reaching a height of over 2,000 miles before landing off the coast of the Japanese island of Hokkaido. If its trajectory were flattened, experts said, it could strike at least the western half, if not all of the continental U.S.

Scientist Siegfried Hecker has visited North Korea’s nuclear facilities. He believes North Korea is still quite a way from being able to launch a nuclear weapon on an ICBM.

SIEGFRIED HECKER, Scientist: It goes up into space. The temperatures are very, very cold, and then it goes through reentry, and again it has enormous mechanical stresses, and very, very high temperatures. To withstand all of that, that’s a very, very, very difficult process.

MARGARET WARNER: Over the weekend, the U.S. and South Korea responded with a joint show of strength. U.S. bombers streaked over the Korean Peninsula, and the U.S. military said a Sunday test of its THAAD interceptor shot down a medium-range missile over the Pacific.

But a South Korean government spokesman said the door is still open for talks.

BAIK TAE-HYUN, Government Spokesman, South Korea (through interpreter): We are maintaining our original stance in firmly dealing with the provocations, but also combining both sanctions and dialogue at the same time.

MARGARET WARNER: China said it opposed North Korea’s missile launch, but Beijing directed harsher criticism at South Korea for bolstering its defenses. It said the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system could escalate tensions on the peninsula.

On Sunday, President Trump took to Twitter: “I am very disappointed in China. They do nothing for us with North Korea. China could easily solve this problem.”

China’s U.N. ambassador shrugged off the blame, saying the conflict was between North Korea and the U.S.

But time may be running out. The Washington Post reported last week that the Defense Intelligence Agency has concluded North Korea’s ICBMs could be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead by next year.

Siegfried Hecker, who thinks that long-range capability is still four to five years away, says he believes the North can already put a nuclear device on shorter-range missiles.

SIEGFRIED HECKER: I believe the North Koreans have already developed the capabilities to reach all of South Korea, all of Japan. And those nuclear weapons are in the hands of a leader and in the hands of a military about whom we know nothing.

MARGARET WARNER: President Trump insisted today that his administration is in control.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We will handle North Korea. We’re going to be able to handle them. It will be — it will be handled. We handle everything.

MARGARET WARNER: For the PBS NewsHour, I’m Margaret Warner.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: So, what are the U.S.’ options for dealing with North Korea?

For that, I’m joined now by two men who’ve thought long and hard about this.

Michael Pillsbury is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, where he directs the Center for Chinese Strategy. He was also an adviser to the Trump transition. And Robert Gallucci is a professor at Georgetown University and chair of the U.S./Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies. He was also the chief U.S. negotiator during the 1994 North Korean nuclear crisis.

Welcome to you both.

So, Michael Pillsbury, I would like to start with you first.

As we saw in Margaret’s report, the North Koreans keep building better and better missiles, able to get closer and closer now, well into the mainland of the U.S. Obviously, there is still this question as to whether they could put a nuclear weapon on those missiles, but still pretty alarming developments.

I understand you have been thinking about what we ought to do in response. And I wonder — tell us about that.

MICHAEL PILLSBURY, Hudson Institute: It seems to me we need to think about several factors.

First of all, it’s not going back to the old six-party talks or the agreed framework. A new framework, a new round of talks that has a better mix, frankly, of more sticks, as well as carrots, it seems to me, is a vague outline of the way ahead.

Secondly, they should think ahead one year. We have President Trump planning to visit China in early November. So between now and then, we have time to start super sanctions, that is, much tougher sanctions, including on Chinese banks, and other ways that North Korea has access to the international financial system.

At the same time, before he goes to China, the United States can begin a program that appears it’s already started of show of force activities, flying bombers, having South Korean and Japanese jet fighters join them, a whole series of things that suggests that what many presidents have said, including President Obama, that everything is on the table, drawing attention to some of the ways force could be used.

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