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Is This the Beginning of World War III ?

The US administration and key Asian allies are preparing to expand interceptions of ships suspected of violating sanctions on North Korea. North Korea has already warned it would consider as an act of war.

Is This the Beginning of World War III ?

The US administration and key Asian allies are preparing to expand interceptions of ships suspected of violating sanctions on North Korea, a plan that could include deploying U.S. Coast Guard forces to stop and search vessels in Asia-Pacific waters thereby imposing a naval blockade on North Korea. North Korea has already warned it would consider any such blockade an act of war.

United States of America has been talking on the issue to create a consensus with regional partners such as Australia, Japan, Singapore and South Korea, about coordinating a stepped-up crackdown that would go further than ever before in an attempt to squeeze Pyongyang's use of seagoing trade to feed its nuclear missile program.

The strategy which calls for a closer tracking and possible seizure of ships suspected of carrying prohibited cargo and banned weapons components to and from North Korea. According to the US security officials, depending on the scale of the campaign, the United States would consider beefing up the naval and air power of its Pacific Command.

The initiative led by United States of America indicates Washington's keenness to force North Korea into negotiations over the abandonment of its weapons programs. As per intelligence report North Korea is only a few months away from completing development of a nuclear-tipped missile, which is capable of hitting the U.S. mainland, despite existing international sanctions on it. The program continues with the smuggling and ship-to-ship transfers at sea of banned goods, according to officials.

China and Russia, which have blocked U.S. efforts at the United Nations to win approval for use of force in North Korea interdiction operations, are likely to oppose new actions if they see the United States as overstepping.

In December, Reuters has reported, that Russian tankers had supplied fuel to North Korea at sea in a violation of sanctions. US also has claimed that it has evidence that vessels from various countries, including China at various occasion blaming them, as they are engaged in shipping oil products and coal. Though China has denied the allegation.

A senior administration official has said, “there is no doubt we all have to do more, short of direct military action, to show North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, we mean business”. But there is no official comment from the White House.

The effort could target vessels on the high seas or in the territorial waters of countries that choose to cooperate. It was unclear, however, to what extent the campaign might extend beyond Asia.

Washington has slapped sanctions on dozens more companies and vessels linked to North Korean shipping trade very recently and has requested the United Nations to ban a list of entities, claiming the action will help in stopping, North Korea's illegal maritime smuggling activities to obtain oil and sell coal.

The Coast Guard declined to address whether it might deploy ships to the Asia-Pacific region but acknowledged its ties to countries there. A spokesman with Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Dave French has said “Future ship deployments would depend on the foreign policy objectives of USA and the availability of operational assets.”

A senior South Korean government official said there had been discussions over intensified maritime interdictions including at a foreign ministers meeting in Vancouver last month where U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pressed counterparts on the issue.

A Japanese defense ministry official who is also a member of Japan’s policy planning said, that we are talking to various countries including South Korea and USA on how to implement the sanctions but I have not heard talk of creating a framework or a coalition”.

The US administration is trying to dominate North Korea and is especially interested in detecting of ship-to-ship transfers at sea of banned goods, something that North Korea has increasingly resorted to as vessels and their cargo have faced greater scrutiny in the Asian ports.

Such serious sanctions along with a more assertive approach at sea may fuel the fire and increase tension at a time when fragile diplomacy between North and South Korea has gained momentum. The US initiative, which is at the discussion and development may trigger North Korean retaliation and dividing the international community.


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