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August 6, 2017

The United Nations Security Council on Saturday voted to approve new punitive sanctions against North Korea in retaliation for Pyongyang's two intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests this year.

The sanctions package, which passed with the support of China and Russia, focuses on export prohibitions and is expected to cut the country's $3 billion annual export income by one third. President Trump celebrated the vote on Twitter Saturday evening:

Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the U.N., also emphasized the historic import of the U.S.-drafted measure. "This resolution is the single largest economic sanctions package ever leveled against the North Korean regime," she said. "This is the most stringent set of sanctions on any country in a generation." Bonnie Kristian

August 1, 2017
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North Korea is engaging in "highly unusual and unprecedented levels" of submarine activity following its intercontinental ballistic missile test on Friday, alarming the U.S. and South Korean militaries, CNN reports.

North Korea has around 70 submarines in its fleet, although most are old and unable to fire missiles. Additionally, intelligence suggests that the country's missile programs for its capable submarines are only in the early stages, Still, when considered with Pyongyang's second intercontinental ballistic missile test this month, the "developments are concerning because North Korea says it is trying to develop a missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to the United States," CNN writes.

In addition to increased submarine activity, a U.S. defense official told CNN that there is also evidence of a North Korean "ejection test," which would explore the steam system used to launch a missile out of a canister far enough as to not damage a submarine before the missile's engines ignited. The test was conducted on land, and is the fourth such test the nation has done this year.

Experts say Friday's intercontinental missile test, if conducted on flat land and with an altered trajectory, could have reached as far as Chicago. For more on how the U.S. ought to handle North Korea, check out this analysis from The Week's Harry J. Kazianis. Jeva Lange

July 29, 2017
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North Korea tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Friday, the 14th missile test Pyongyang has conducted this year and its second ICBM test. North Korean state media reported leader Kim Jong Un took "great satisfaction" in the test and and claimed Pyongyang can now target the "entire" U.S. mainland with a "large-sized, heavy nuclear warhead."

Early reports from U.S. analysts are more measured, suggesting the western half of the continental United States would theoretically be in range depending on the weight of the missile load. A heavy warhead would considerably shorten the missile's maximum flight distance. The first ICBM North Korea tested could only go as far as Alaska.

President Trump's response promised the U.S. "will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and protect our allies in the region," while South Korea indicated diplomatic engagement with Pyongyang is now less likely. For more on how the U.S. ought to handle North Korea, check out this analysis from The Week's Harry J. Kazianis. Bonnie Kristian

July 6, 2017
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On Thursday, at a joint appearance in Warsaw with Polish President Andrzej Duda, President Trump broadly warned North Korea with "some pretty severe things" in response to its "very, very bad behavior," presumably in regards to testing missiles and threatening the U.S. with an intercontinental ballistic missile. Trump said that because Pyongyang is behaving in a "very, very dangerous manner," it's clear that "something will have to be done about it." He did not elaborate.

On Wednesday, Trump's United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, accused Russia and China of "holding the hands" of North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Un, and hinted at a military strike, reminding the U.N. Security Council that "one of our capabilities lies with our considerable military forces." China probably won't be swayed by this show of rhetorical force. "It's not very likely that China will follow the will of the U.S. and put a 'heavy move' on North Korea, like what President Trump has called for," Deng Yuwen, a Chinese expert on North Korea, tells The Washington Post. "It would expand sanctions, but there is a bottom line and the bottom line is that it won't sanction North Korea such that it causes chaos in the North." Peter Weber

June 29, 2017
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U.S. military chiefs have prepared new options for how President Trump might respond to the North Korean threat, including "a military response," CNN reports. "What we have to do is prepare all options because the president has made clear to us that he will not accept a nuclear power in North Korea and a threat that can target the United States and target the American population," said National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on Wednesday.

North Korea is "very much at the top of" Trump's mind, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said. Last week, Trump added that the North Korean regime "is causing tremendous problems and is something that has to be dealt with, and probably dealt with rapidly."

A primary concern is North Korea's increasing ability to hide missile and nuclear test preparations from the United States' satellites. Some experts, including U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, warn that North Korea's advances might be more rapid and sophisticated than previously predicted, and that the nation could even achieve the ability to deliver a nuclear weapon to the territorial U.S. before the estimated three-to-five-year timeframe.

"All options" are on the table in the case of another test, CNN reports. "Administration officials say war with North Korea in our lifetimes is not impossible," Axios writes. Jeva Lange

June 24, 2017
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The United States and China have reaffirmed their mutual commitment to "strive for the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Chinese state media agency Xinhua reported Saturday.

The statement comes after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis hosted Chinese diplomats in Washington in an attempt to reach consensus on how to deal with increasing provocation from Pyongyang. Tillerson indicated earlier this week he is asking China, which is North Korea's primary trading partner, to increase its political and economic pressure on the Kim Jong Un regime. Bonnie Kristian

June 19, 2017
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North Korea blasted Homeland Security agents at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport for "literally mugging" a diplomatic delegation, although the U.S. claims the North Koreans in question were not protected by diplomatic immunity. Pyongyang accused the DHS officers of taking a diplomatic package away from a delegation that was visiting New York for a United Nations conference, but the three North Koreans did not hold diplomatic status, CNN reports.

"According to the U.S. State Department, the North Korean citizens were not accredited members of North Korea's Mission to the U.N. and had no entitlement to diplomatic immunity. The package in question had no diplomatic protection from inspection," said the Department of Homeland Security in a statement. "Multiple media items" and "packages" were seized in the confrontation.

"According to the 1961 Vienna Convention, diplomatic couriers 'shall not be liable to any form of arrest or detention' and the diplomatic bags they carry may not be opened or detained," CNN writes. That being said, couriers are required to have the proper accreditation on them while traveling in order to prove their immunity.

North Korea slammed the U.S. agents for behaving like "gangsters," calling the confrontation "an illegal and heinous act of provocation."

"The U.S. should reflect on its reckless act and be fully aware of the grave consequences to follow," North Korea said. Jeva Lange

June 13, 2017

Because America doesn't have enough problems on the world stage, former NBA star Dennis Rodman is headed back to North Korea on Tuesday to meet with leader Kim Jong Un for the fifth time since 2013 and his first trip to Pyongyang of the Trump presidency. If past visits are any guide, Rodman will be greeted warmly by Kim, a basketball fan. In China, Rodman told reporters that he is "just trying to open a door" with North Korea. When asked if he had spoken with President Trump about his trip, he replied, "Well, I'm pretty sure he's pretty much happy with the fact that I'm over here trying to accomplish something that we both need."

Relations between North Korea and the U.S. are especially tense right now, after Pyongyang's several missile tests in recent months and Washington's response. Several U.S. citizens are being detained in North Korea, but that's "not my purpose right now," Rodman said. The U.S. State Department said it is aware of Rodman's trip, highlighting that he's making it as a private citizen. "We wish him well, but we have issued travel warnings to Americans and suggested they not travel to North Korea for their own safety," said U.S. Undersecretary of State Thomas Shannon.

Rodman is friendly with both Kim and Trump, after his appearance on two season of Trump's Celebrity Apprentice reality TV show. A Rodman publicist highlighted that unusual configuration of relationships, and CNN's Erin Burnett suggested it's improbable that Rodman isn't somehow visiting Kim on Trump's behalf.

At the same time, Rodman's journey is being sponsored by a company that uses cybercurrency for marijuana transactions in states where the drug is legal. Marijuana is not legal in North Korea. Peter Weber

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