Get caught up on the escalating war of words over Pyongyang’s weapons program and what the United States, South Korea and Asian nations are doing about it

An undated picture released from North Korea’s official news agency on March 11, 2016, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attending a mobile drill for ballistic rocket launch at an undisclosed location.


The latest
Washington is committed to reining in North Korea’s nuclear and missile ambitions, U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence reassured Japan on Tuesday. “We will not rest and will not relent until we obtain the objective of a denuclearized Korean Peninsula,” Mr. Pence said after meetings with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other leaders.

Mr. Pence is making a 10-day trip to Asia in a U.S. show of force over North Korea’s weapons tests. On Monday, he was in South Korea, making an unannounced visit to the tense demilitarized zone dividing North and South, and he warned Pyongyang that “the era of strategic patience is over.”
Mr. Pence also warned North Korea that recent U.S. strikes in Syria, one of Pyongyang’s few close allies, showed U.S. President Donald Trump’s resolve should not be tested. Syria’s ambassador to North Korea, Tammam Sulaiman, said Monday that sending a “message” with an attack on a Syrian air field was irresponsible.
Senior North Korean officials on Monday reiterated recent rhetorical warnings that the situation is escalating, and said the missile tests were far from over. “We’ll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis,” Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-ryol said in an interview with the BBC released late on Monday.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made a new appeal for calm on the Korean Peninsula on Tuesday and said he believes the United States would prefer a diplomatic resolution to the standoff.
The basics

Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have escalated in the past few months after North Korea launched missile tests – some successful, others not – that purportedly showed increasing sophistication in the nuclear state’s weapons program. If estimates of the Korean weapons program are correct, an increasing area of the world (including Canada) would be within range of the North’s missiles.


In response to missile tests in March, South Korea authorized the United States to begin building its Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) missile defence system in the country, which China – a country with fraught relations with the new Trump administration in Washington – characterized as a provocation.

Robert Litwak of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, who tracks this potentially deadly interplay, told The New York Times that what is playing out is “the Cuban missile crisis in slow motion.” But the slow-motion part appears to be speeding up. Mr. Trump and his aides have made it clear that the United States will no longer tolerate the incremental advances that have moved Korean leader Kim Jong-un so close to his goals.

Tempting as the analogies to Cuba may be, Mr. Kim is probably thinking of another nuclear negotiation – with Libya, in 2003. Its leader, Moammar Gadhafi, agreed to give up his nascent nuclear program in return for promises from the West of economic integration and acceptance. (It never really happened, and as soon as Libya’s populace turned against the dictator during the Arab Spring, the United States and its European and Arab allies drove him from power. Ultimately, he was pulled out of a ditch and shot.)

Nathan Vanderklippe recaps an unusually productive week in March for a country that thrives on sowing confusion.

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