In the last few weeks, Kim Jong-un – the supreme leader of North Korea, and son of the late Kim Jong-il – has been having a crack at world politics
He tore up the Korean War truce. He declared that North Korea had entered a state of war with South Korea. He held a meeting with senior members of his party, and then announced that Pyongyang will strengthen its nuclear weapons program. His regime has threatened to strike the US mainland.
Is it time to be worried about North Korea? Obviously a rogue regime led by a despot is always cause for concern – but the question everyone is asking is this: do we need to be more worried than usual?
Let’s have a look at some recent events.
1. North Korea has developed a plan for an attack on the US mainland. But then again, maybe they haven’t.
North Korean state media released photos on Friday that appeared to show attack plans for the US mainland, with the lettering “Strategic Forces’ US Mainland Striking Plan”, reported News Ltd. It is believed that the photos were released intentionally, to distort public perception about North Korea’s military strength.
Most analysts agree that North Korea does not currently have the ability to launch an attack on the US mainland, and that current threats are merely posturing. Propaganda to show strength in domestic politics; and an attempt to scare the United States back to the negotiating table.
2. North Korea has refused to give up their nuclear arms, despite repeated warnings and sanctions from the United Nations. In early March, the United Nations placed new – and tougher – sanctions on North Korea, after they threatened a pre-emptive nuclear attack against the United States.
Last week at the plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party, the Korean Central News Agency reported that their nuclear weapons “represent the nation’s life, which can never be abandoned as long as imperialists and nuclear threats exist on earth”. The party’s statement continued that their nuclear weapons were “neither a political bargaining chip nor a thing for economic dealings”.
Of course, if another country’s ruler asked the US military to “give up” their nuclear weapons, they would probably not be amenable to that suggestion.
South Korean and American officials are still trying to use negotiations and sanctions to convince North Korea give up their nuclear weapons.
3. North Korea has announced a “state of war” with South Korea. However, technically North and South Korea have been at war for the last half-century, as the last Korean War ended in 1953 with an armistice – not a peace treaty.
Most analysts agree that while North Korea doesn’t have the technology launch missiles that will reach the US mainland, they certainly would be able to reach Seoul.
Despite this, Seoul residents are not particularly worried about North Korea. A local told ABC Lateline, “I’ve watched them issue these threats for so long but I think these are just the same old threats that they’re making again.” Another said, “I’m not seriously worried because North Korea is isolated both politically and economically.”
South Korean President Park Geun-hye has promised ”a strong response” to any aggravation from the North.
4. Is there movement in North Korea, or isn’t there? South Korea has reported movement at North Korea’s missile sites. After declaring war on South Korea, the North also put its rocket batteries on launch standby – which analysts suspect is to threaten US bases in the Pacific.
On Monday, when North Korea said its nuclear weapons program was non-negotiable, the US sent stealth jet fighters to however near Seoul – ostensibly as a warning.
It is possible that movement from both sides are merely tactics in “war games”, and not indicative of an actual war.
5. Undeniably, North Korea has a huge army. But they also feel the need to use Photoshop to make their army look larger.
Last week, North Korea’s official news agency distributed photos showing the country’s troops carrying out drills, with a number of hovercrafts in the landscape. However, it has been suggested that the photos were photoshopped to make the military exercise appear more menacing than it really is. Atlantic magazine’s Alan Taylor wrote that he believed the photo had been digitally altered, and that several of the eight hovercrafts in the photo were “digital clones”.
Summary: to underestimate North Korea would be dangerous. They are a big country, with a huge army, and extensive military resources. They have invested incalculable amounts of money into their missiles and nuclear weapons programs – and some analysts believe that they may have the power to hit targets as far away as Japan, Hawaii and Guam.
Has Kim Jong-un decided to push his country to the brink of war, because his inner-circle believe they now have the power to take on the rest of the world?
Is the rogue regime in the North trying to test South Korea’s new President Park Geun-hye?
Or is North Korea merely posturing, in an attempt to get the United States to the negotiating table?
Over to you – are you worried by North Korea?