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The North Korean problem is a tricky one -- essentially a small country with its own unique culture and political system that wants to have the ultimate deterrent, namely nuclear missiles. Being hemmed in by the three great empires of the World -- America, Russia, and China -- may play some part in this desire. 

The increasing success of Kim Jong-un's nuclear weapons program has raised tensions. All three empires have good reason to feel uneasy about having a nuclear armed midget on their doorstep. Trump's antagonism towards the North Koreans is well known, but China and Russia are also extremely worried, and may also be thinking of some kind of military action at some stage. 

The best outcome for each of these three powers is for one of their rivals to take on the heavy costs of stopping Pyongyang's nuclear program. For a time it looked like America might be the "fall guy" here, but then Trump dialled back on the war rhetoric, clearly unwilling to be blamed for South Korea being reduced to rubble while China played the role of "honest broker" and got what it wanted.

Now the game seems to be getting more complicated. In recent days Chinese media has criticized North Korea, following its latest test in which a missile flew over Northern Japan to crash in the sea to the East of Japan. 

There have been reports of China reducing trade with North Korea. This is believed to be an attempt to put pressure on Pyongyang to halt its nuclear weapons program, but there also seem to be other factors involved. As reported by CNBC:
"Trade between China and North Korea looks to be slowing drastically, providing further evidence that Beijing may be bowing to U.S. requests to put pressure on the rogue state. The world's second-largest economy imported and exported goods worth $456.16 million in July, down from $489 million in June.

The data, released by China's General Administration of Customs and analysed by Reuters, showed that just 120 tonnes of gasoline was shipped from China to North Korea in July. By comparison the June figure was 8,262 tonnes. This after state-owned China National Petroleum Corp suspended sales of fuel to North Korea in June over concerns about payments. China slapped a ban on coal purchases from its border neighbor in June and therefore imported zero coal in July.

Iron ore imports from North Korea slowed by almost a quarter during the month and Reuters has reported that Beijing is now pressuring iron ore traders not to buy the commodity from North Korea."
The Russians seem to believe there is a high possibility of trouble, especially with the US and South Korean forces now engaged in a large military training exercise. 1500 people have been evacuated from the area next to the Russian-North Korean border. But rather than signalling Russian intention to act, this moves seems to show Kremlin concerns that another power will strike North Korea. The Daily Star:
"Russian civil defence officials were reportedly ordered to shift residents in the country's far east to "safe areas" in a extraordinary move amid fears of a worldwide conflict. North Korea angered the international community by launching a missile that flew directly over Japan. In response, US President Donald Trump threatened the communist state with military action, warning "all options are on the table."

As Trump reeled from the provocative test, thousands of people from the city of Vladivostok were moved as part of an emergency operation. Russia President Vladimir Putin fears the US may wage war against the secretive state after Trump threatened to unleash "fire and fury" should it fire more missiles"
Right now the US must still be the favourite to launch an operation to knock out North Korea's nuclear weapons capability, with China second, and the Russians a distant third. But since the costs of such an operation would be enormous, we will probably continue to see the present inconclusive stand-off with a lot of angry rhetoric for some time to come.  

Is that a rocket in his pocket or are they just glad to see him?

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