According to the Wall Street Journal, the Obama administration warned Trump’s transition team that the nuclear-armed country should be considered the incoming White House team’s top national security threat.
Within four years, some experts warn Kim may have a nuclear warhead capable of reaching the West Coast of the U.S., as well as submarines able to conduct swift surprise attack on America’s allies.
Last October, a senior North Korean official told NBC News the country is targeting mainland America with a nuclear weapons program it will not halt. “Offense is the best form of defense,” Lee Yung Pil said. He promised more nuclear tests, accused the U.S. of wanting to remove North Korea’s leadership and argued that American policies, including sanctions, have backfired.
Turning North Korea into a nuclear power has defined Kim Jong Un’s five years in power. Under him, the country has conducted the majority of its nuclear tests. Kim is also pursuing missile technology it would need to attack South Korea, as well as Japan and the 50,000 U.S. troops it hosts. Kim’s regime also has designs on the key U.S. military outpost of Guam and the U.S. mainland itself.
[As for sanctions] the United Nations’ toughest economic sanctions ever did not stop North Korea from conducting its most powerful nuclear test to date — what Pyongyang claims was a powerful hydrogen bomb. As one U.S. official said recently, sanctions are designed to bring North Korea to its senses not to its knees. Whatever their intention, they don’t appear to be working. North Korea has dodged the worst effects thanks to its ally, sponsor and neighbor China.
Trump has often suggested China crack down on its smaller neighbor. But while Beijing has no love for the instability North Korea creates, it is also in its interests to have a buffer zone against U.S. forces in the south of the peninsula. The last thing Beijing wants is a collapsed North Korea, which could result in American troops right on its border in a reunited Korea. So for China, the status quo may be the least-bad option.