For China, this crisis, whether it leads to war, a US buildup in the South, or a USA withdrawal from Korea, is problematic. Complicating the mission are Chinese concerns about how the USA has responded so far. Both support a pivot toward engaging the North, citing the failures of deterrence over the past decade.
Passenger's traffic between China and South Korea has also been declined recently.
Last week's coordinated launch of four intermediate-range missiles appeared meant to showcase the country's ability to fire multiple rockets simultaneously at U.S. military bases in Japan, increasingly the likelihood that some will penetrate anti-missile shields.
According to CNN, the first pieces of THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense), a US-built defensive missile created to take down incoming missiles from North Korea, arrived in South Korea last week. "In case of a war on the Korean Peninsula, the unmanned aircraft could infiltrate into the skies of North Korea and make a precision strike on the war command and other major military facilities", an unnamed military official told the news agency. Beijing disingenuously suggested that the US and South Korea call off their exercises in return for a promise that North Korea will not launch additional missiles or conduct nuclear tests. On March 6, North Korea launched four ballistic missiles, explaining a day later that the launches were a test of its ability to strike U.S. military facilities located in Japan. "It'll serve Chinese interests best if we step back a bit and give the South a little breathing space to settle their domestic politics".
Even if nuclear weapons are not used, North Korea has enough artillery aimed at South Korea to all but level the capital Seoul and cause hundreds of thousands of casualties. Lotte owned the golf course south of Seoul where THAAD will be deployed and could possibly go operational as early as next month, according to South Korean military officials. Many congressmen and senior military officials are now calling for a tougher response, which could include restoring the Kim regime to a list of state sponsors of terrorism, and using US Special Forces to launch surgical strikes.
A South Korean think-tank estimated in December a year ago that more than 300 people had been executed since he took office, including 140 senior officials and at least one uncle.
The front-runner to succeed South Korea's impeached president Park Geun-hye after her dismissal over a corruption scandal is a former special forces soldier, pro-democracy activist and human rights lawyer.
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Whether that will be in time to keep home court advantage is questionable. "That's what I'm thinking about at this point". Speaking to nba.com about the hyper-extended knee he suffered, he said: "It could have been a lot worse, I hurt my knee".
Acting president Hwang Kyo-ahn has stuck to Park's line on North Korea.
However, North Korea's nuclear weapons are the greatest impediment to resolving the US-North Korea conflict.
Relations with the North are a key consideration for any South Korean government, and over the years, different governments have tried different policies in their attempts to coexist with a volatile and risky regime in Pyongyang.
US President Donald Trump, just before taking office, appeared to taunt Pyongyang on Twitter, saying that North Korea's plan for building intercontinental ballistic missiles "won't happen".
Concurrent to its nuclear program, North Korea has also forged ahead with the testing of new missile types.
Tillerson arrives Wednesday in Japan and will meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe the next day.
Before the new Trump administration develops a sure footing regarding some hot-button global affairs issues, Kim may not risk escalating his ballistic missile tests.
Trump administration lined up for a dose of geopolitical reality. And finally there's the China factor, which suggests that the current policy of antagonizing the Middle Kingdom is making the South less prosperous as well. With the DPRK preparing for what looks like yet another nuclear test, countries in the region, and major powers like the U.S. and China need to present a united front in order to deter aggression and work together on a possible solution.