Catching Up With the Conflict in North Korea

Nathan Currier, News Editor

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Tensions with the rogue state of North Korea are at an all time high with the Trump presidency and administration taking actions to try and prevent the development of long range ballistic weaponry that have the possibility of using nuclear armaments. Even threats from the United States to engage in war are not specific to this administration.

Pentagon and Homeland Security Officials seemed baffled as the years progress and the rapid advancements made in their nuclear armaments program. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1991, a significant amount of their nuclear weapons went missing as a result of the large scale political turmoil. The Department of Defense loosely refers to this as “loose nukes” which have the potential of making their way into black markets. Not necessarily the nuclear weapons themselves, but the materials to create them. The other narrative presented from the international community, holds China, Pakistan, and Russia accountable for sharing their nuclear programs with North Korea to have a buffer against the western world. President Vladimir Putin of Russia has denied anymore sanctions against North Korea. Putin provided the west with a message, “Do not drive North Korea into a corner– now, more than ever, everyone needs to be calm and avoid steps that can lead to escalation of tension.”

Even though North Korea is stuck with Eastern Bloc technology from the 80’s, with even some of their troops being armed with surplus weapons from the second world war. Their nuclear program has been rapidly growing. Monthly or even weekly nuclear tests have been conducted as well as ballistic missile tests.

Data from the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) agencies have used long range satellite and seismic detection devices have indicated large scale nuclear weapon detonations underground, reading calculations of waves that are equal to a 6.1 magnitude earthquake in the Hamgyong mountains that border China. Leading Chinese scientist and former chairman of the Chinese Nuclear Society, Wang Nyan, has been investigation the rogue state and has concluded that the facility that is used to test nuclear weapons is, “…an environmental disaster waiting to happen.” Stating that anymore nuclear tests can result in the total collapse of the mountain range and let radioactive particles and elements be released in the surrounding region of North Korea, as well as South Korea and China.

On August 24th, a nuclear weapon scare happened to Japan when a ballistic missile launch was detected near the Akita and Iwate provinces in the northern part of the country. Emergency signals were sent out across the country telling people to seek shelter in the area and to wait for the all-clear, whilst interrupting radio, television broadcast, and live streams. Even making automatic calls and texts to the local populace.

Users on the popular website, Reddit, reported his experience of how he was talking to friends overseas as he was living in Japan, and abruptly the T.V. and his phone started giving him warning to seek shelter and stay low, giving them only a 10 minute window to prepare for any sort of detonation. Many other citizens in Japan or U.S troops stationed there reported similar things to happen them.

As Japanese missile defense systems were ready and in place, it was already too late, the missile had splashed down in the Pacific, indicating it was just a test. It is unknown at this time if the U.S and Japan’s missile defense system has enough reaction time to attempt to shoot down a nuclear weapon if it were in flight towards a populated area. Judging by how new the technology is and how little of it is deployed in the South China Sea, and the Sea of Japan is speculated to not be enough to prevent a nuclear strike in in the surrounding area.

In May 2016, there were talks of moving North Korea to a more democratic state that communicates and/or cooperates with the western nations seemed more plausible than ever; until this past year where a string of inter-political purges and international assassinations of enemies of the Kim Dynasty. Many of high ranking generals of the Korean People’s Army have been stripped of rank or outright killed. The same goes for members within the political party itself.

Kim Jong Un’s purge even extended to his family, where he had his brother, Kim Jong Nam, allegedly assassinated in the middle of the Kuala Lumpur airport in Malaysia. The two women were Siti Aisyah, a Malaysian Nationalist, and Doan Thi Huong, a Korean sympathizer from Vietnam had attacked and killed Kim Jong Nam with a toxic nerve agent of organophosphorus known as “VX”. According to military analyst and Lieutenant-Colonel Rick Francona, the agent is, “incredibly easy to make in a somewhat competent lab” and “the chemical has been around since the 1950’s, and has been used in the Iran-Iraq War and the 1995 Tokyo attacks.” A pentagon report followed afterwards stating that North Korea may now have chemical weapons and are able to weaponize them.

Even if the nuclear program becomes stunted, North Korea is maintaining: a 2 million man army, a stock of possible chemical weapons, and support from two of the world’s superpowers, while hemorrhaging resources as sanctions become more intense, with enough artillery pieces and manpower that can decimate the capital of South Korea, Seoul if there was ever a war to break out. Almost 10 million civilians could be easily caught in the crossfire and could potentially lead to a breakout of war with all the major superpowers in play.

Times are changing. No clear answer has been found in regards of dealing with this crisis. As it still stands, the United States is looking at a global catastrophe if it continuously ignores the international community on what to do in this situation, and only by cooperation, will we potentially neutralize the threat to the free world.

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