The No. 1 foreign policy threat that may be awaiting President-elect Trump is North Korea's nuclear capability and its close ties with Iran. It's a high-stakes game of brinkmanship, with a whole new layer of uncertainty as the U.S. administration changes guard in the weeks ahead. Time will tell if Trump will pull out of the nuclear pact the United States signed last year with Iran, potentially freeing the Mideastern power to act on its ambitions.
According to military officials, the United States and South Korea remain on high alert after receiving reports that North Korea may test-fire an intermediate-range ballistic missile when Trump enters the White House in January. The missile test is said to be a warning that Pyongyang will not give up its nuclear- and missile-development programs.
The Musudan, or BM-35 missile, has an estimated range of 3,500 kilometers, which is enough to allow it to target the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam, an island with key strategic assets for U.S. forces.
Though Western security analysts know very little for certain about the missile test expected, arms-control experts and North Korea watchers can agree one thing is likely: A small group of Iranian observers will be there to witness the latest demonstration of North Korean ballistic missile technology.
The cozy military relationship between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and Iran no longer receives the attention it did two decades ago, when the two countries actively exchanged ballistic missile technology and know-how. But the relationship may be pulled back into focus as the next U.S. presidential administration attempts to manage a tenuous rapprochement with Tehran at the same time North Korea dials up its nuclear and ballistic missile provocations.