Well you know it’s the New Year when North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is threatening a new ballistic missile or nuclear test. This time, though, Kim Jong-un is saying the “Hermit Kingdom” is in the final stages of preparing to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). This would be Pyongyang’s first test of an ICBM.
For years, right after Iran made news, we could always count on the North Korean dictator’s late father, Kim Jong-il, to try and grab headlines with the latest test of the Taepodong Missile, which usually failed on the launch pad or broke apart in pieces over the Pacific Ocean. The Taepodong Missile is North Korea’s version of Iran’s Shahab Missile.
In recent years, new ballistic missile tests, additional nuclear tests, and the successful launch of the Unha-3 rocket, tell us a great deal about the current leadership situation in North Korea and the maturity and capability of their technology. In fact, North Korea conducted over 20 ballistic missile tests in 2016 and has conducted 7 nuclear tests in the last decade, with 2 of those also coming in 2016.
So much for those Western reporters who wondered if Kim Jong-un would be different from his father. They pointed to his “western education,” love of the National Basketball Association, indifference towards politics and fondness for James Bond movies. Clearly, Kim Jong-un is a “chip off the old block” from both his father, and his grandfather and founder of the North Korean regime, Kim Il-sung.
Most concerning to me in recent years has been North Korea’s ability to launch the long range Unha-3 rocket to successfully get 2 satellites in space. The Unha-3 uses the same delivery technology as the Taepodong-2 Missile and is believed to have a range of at least 6,200 miles, well within the range of California. Several observers believe Kim Jong-un’s threatened ICBM test could come on January 8th, the North Korean ruler’s birthday or on January 20th, the date of the U.S. Presidential Inaugural.
President-elect Donald Trump will have to deal with many national security challenges when he becomes our 45th President on January 20th. These range from cyber attacks, radical Islam, securing our borders and rebuilding our military. The North Korean threat, with its combined nuclear and ballistic missile technology capability, must rank near the top.
On the campaign trail, candidate Donald Trump called the Iranian nuclear deal “the stupidest deal of all time” and said his top priority would be to “dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.” With regards to North Korea, candidate Trump said he wanted China to get more involved to get Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear program. He’s been right about both Iran and China. As he now confronts the North Korean nuclear threat, it will be important for our new President to remember the real link between Iran and North Korea. In short, Iran has been the “great enabler” of the national security threat America faces today from North Korea. Consider the facts:
- As documented years ago by the Federation of American Scientists, Iran has been in bed with North Korea since the early 1980s and has helped fund North Korea’s missile development through oil and cash payments.
- Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) confirms that Iran and North Korea entered into a scientific and technology agreement on September 1, 2012.
- OSINT further confirms that following the 2012 scientific and technology deal between Tehran and Pyongyang, Iran deployed technical staff to North Korea to help with joint nuclear and missile development efforts.
- Following Iran signing the Geneva interim agreement, senior North Korean officials met in Tehran in 2014 to discuss expansion of ties between the 2 countries.
- A number of meetings involving Iranian and North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile technology experts reportedly took place in 2015.
- U.S. Congressional testimony in 2016 revealed that Iran has conducted at least 8 ballistic missile tests since the Iran nuclear agreement was signed.
- Several years ago it was documented that North Korea and Iran were both using the same miniaturized warhead design that can be traced back to the infamous Pakistani scientist, Dr. A.Q. Khan.
Yes, our new President is inheriting the most complex national security and foreign policy situation a U.S President has ever faced. With regards to the North Korean threat, though, he has a number of options. These include expediting the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to South Korea, beefing up America’s missile defenses on the West Coast, holding China accountable on the world stage and deploying a more extensive broadcast operation (using the Radio Free Europe model) consisting of TV, SatTV and radio, against North Korean broadcasts from locations in South Korea and Japan.
We are now seeing the consequences of getting a nuclear deal with Iran just to get a deal. Allowing Iran to be at least $150 BN richer as a result of unfreezing its assets, makes the current North Korean threat our new President now faces much more difficult. Make no mistake, thanks to “enablers” like Iran, the North Korean threat is the greatest nuclear weapons challenge to the United States since the Cold War. Come January 20th, 2017 it will be time for America to act and lead once again.
Van D. Hipp, Jr. is the former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army. He is the author of the newly released book, "The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It." All of the author's proceeds go to the National Guard Educational Foundation to fund scholarships for children of fallen Guardsmen. www.thenewterrorism.com Follow him on Twitter @VanHipp.