Is North Korea Really A Threat To United States?

Posted on October 19, 2017

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Suraj Kumar

nk

War of Words

The war of words between the United States and North Korea has further intensified crisis on the Korean Peninsula. In his address to the United Nations General Assembly, US President Donald Trump threatens that “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.  Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”[1]  

President Trump’s speech went far beyond just arguing for ‘regime change’ and the overthrow of the Kim Jong-un regime but actually stated he would destroy a sovereign state. Since the foundation of the United Nations, no chief executives or diplomats including the previous US presidents have openly called for the annihilation of another state at the floor of UN General Assembly.

In response to this on September 22, 2017, in an unprecedented and personal televised, Kim Jong-un compared the words of US President Donald Trump with the declaration of war on Pyongyang. He stated that “far from making somewhat plausible remarks that can be helpful to defusing tension, he made unprecedented rude nonsense one has never heard from any of his predecessors.  I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.”[2]

North Korea regime’s repeated threats to use nuclear weapons as well as US’s threat “to totally destroy North Korea” have created an increasingly dangerous situation in the region. According to Washington, Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons destabilise peace and security not only in Korean peninsula bot in Northeast Asia as a whole.

The present US administration is showing unprecedentedly deep interest in the question of the Korean peninsula.

After the nuclear test on September 3, 2017, the US carried out a joint missile launching drill together with South Korea targeting the North Korea and dispatched two of its B-1B strategic bombers into the air above the Korean peninsula to conduct aerial bombardment drill.

Moreover, in a recent move, a dozen senators have co-signed a letter to the US State Department requesting that North Korea be once again added to Washington’s list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Currently, the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terror is short: Iran, Syria and Sudan, the latter of which is appealing to be taken off the list. Despite opposition from Russia and China, the South Korean government formalized the purchase of land for the installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system to be deployed in South Korea. Further, the US and South Korea agreed to build a missile defence system together.

Addressing the UN General Assembly on September 25, 2017, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho accused U.S. President Donald Trump of declaring war on his country.

He further stated that “What else could be a bigger threat than the violent remarks such as pouring “fire and fury”, “total destruction” coming from the top authority of the world’s biggest nuclear power. The United States is the country that first produced nuclear weapons and the only country that actually used it, massacring hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians.”[3]

 

UNSC sanction on North Korea

In violation of the UN Security Council’s resolutions, Pyongyang carried out several ballistic missiles and conducted a sixth nuclear test on September 3, 2017. As a result, on September 11, 2017, the 15-member United Nations Security Council (UNSC) passed Resolution 2375 against the North Korea (DPRK) slapping harsh sanctions against the DPRK by branding its nuclear build-up as a “threat” to international peace and security. More recently, it published a press release to urge its implementation. North Korea’s nuclear test deeply disappointed and angered Russian and Chinese leaders, who decided to vote in favour of UNSC resolution against North Korea.

There was once a possibility of denuclearizing North Korea, back in the ’90s.

Moreover, the report prepared by Bank of Korea in 2017 claimed that that North Korea’s economy grew at its fastest pace in 2016, despite the isolated country facing international sanctions aimed at curbing its defiant pursuit of nuclear weapons. Gross domestic product (GDP) in North Korea 2016 rose 3.9 percent from the previous year when the economy contracted due to a drought and low commodity prices.[4]

A few days ago, high-ranking officials of the U.S. administration including the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley said all options including military option are available but they are giving priority to the diplomatic solution. Their remarks are misleading public opinion as if the sanctions against the DPRK are a “peaceful” and “diplomatic” means.

Russian and Chinese Attitude

Both China and the Russian Federation are worried by the aggressive rhetoric and actions of the leaders of the United States and North Korea. However, China and the Russian Federation, while condemning North Korea’s approach to the ongoing crisis, partly blamed the joint-military exercises by the United States and South Korea.

In Russia, government officials and academicians hold mutually contradictory assessments regarding North Korea’s nuclear programs.

Russia does not accept North Korea’s nuclear status, but it has pointed out that the North Korean nuclear issue must be settled exclusively through negotiations.

China regards stability on the Korean peninsula as its primary interest. The Chinese strongly objected to the North Korea exercising its sovereign right to acquire nuclear weapons. After the nuclear test in September 2016, China has warned North Korea to not take action that would, “worsen the situation.” China has also taken some measures to squeeze the North Korea economically. In February 2017, China’s commerce ministry temporarily suspended coal imports from the North Korea through the rest of the year; a move that enhances the effectiveness of existing UN sanctions against people’s Korea. China had previously banned coal imports from the DPRK in April 2016. The state-owned oil giant, China National Petroleum Corporation, also suspended fuel sales to the North Korea in June 2017, citing concerns that the DPRK would fail to pay the company.

Nuclear Weapons and Regime Security

The history of nuclear development in North Korea is more than fifty years old. North Korean scientists began the theoretical study on nuclear questions in the mid-1950s when they started their practical training in the then Soviet Union. From the beginning, the training of North Korean specialists in the Soviet Union was carried out solely in the interests of peaceful use of atomic energy. But in the mid-1970s, Kim Il Sung made a decision to begin work on the development of domestic nuclear weapons capability.

As a result of ideological differences with both Soviet Union and China, North Korean leaders saw their traditional partner with growing suspicion and concluded that development of nuclear deterrent was the only means of ensuring regime security.[5] Further, North Korea’s nuclear activities were one of the factors that contributed to the deterioration of relations between North Korean relations with Russia and China.

In February 2005 the North Korea announced that it manufactured nuclear weapons for self-defence and, according to its plans to strengthen its nuclear deterrent, conducted underground nuclear tests in October 2006, May 2009 and February 2013, and its first H-bomb test in January 2016. North Korea has been testing ballistic missiles for the past few years, stepping up the frequency recently.

North Korea claimed that its nuclear build-up is a just self-defensive measure to cope with the decades-long US nuclear threat to its sovereignty and dignity, security and right to existence. It also asserted its right to hit back in retaliation to any military aggression, as is the right of all sovereign countries.

Washington is certainly aware of North Korean capabilities, otherwise, it would have long devastated the North Korean regime as it has done in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. However, North Korea’s military potential is much bigger than the potential of Yugoslavia, Syria or Iraq.   In relative to these states, North Korea has not only the political will but it has also developed nuclear weapons and ICBM and that their missiles are capable of reaching the mainland of United States. North Korea has made it clear that it will strike all US targets with all means if the US mounted military attacks on North Korea.

Sanctions cut no ice with North Korea

Many in the Western countries perceive that any tough sanctions could not bring the North Korea to its knees. The Trump administration tries to resolve the nuclear issue with sanctions and pressure. It has become clear that the sanctions do not work as they expected. The politics of imposing sanctions does not seem too effective in bringing about political change. This is particularly evident from in case of Iran and North Korea.

Despite the comparable coverage and severity of sanctions, the 2016 North Korea sanction completely failed in altering the target’s nuclear calculus, as manifestly demonstrated in the fifth nuclear test in September 2016 and missile tests that have occurred with greater frequency and higher technical sophistication.

North Korea believes that only nuclear weapons can help the regime maintain its security. The North Korean leadership has already learned a terrible lesson from the voluntary renunciation of the nuclear program by Libyan leader Gaddafi as well as Iraqi President Saddam Hussain and therefore does not want to repeat his destiny.

Songun Politics

North Korea remains the most demonized country in the mainstream media. However, our vision of the North Korean society is superficial and distorted by decades of US and South Korean propaganda.

Every year, the United States carries out massive “Foal Eagle” and “Key Resolve” military exercises alongside South Korean forces that simulate the invasion of the North. This year, the U.S. military went even further and held a nuclear bombing drill, where a U.S. strategic bomber flew right up to the border between North and South Korea as practice for a possible nuclear attack on the North.

Unlike the United States, North Korea has never launched a war of aggression against any country. Since the war 1950-1953 (which was essentially a civil war) neither North nor South Korea has waged war with anyone.

The notion that the DPRK is threatening the superpower United States is disgraceful.

Restoration of Six-Party Talks: The Way Forward

The United States and its allies believed that by imposing sanctions and threatening the regime in North Korea might lead to a revolt against the Kim Jong-un regime but in contrast, this exaggerates the Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

In other words, Unthe United Statesnd its allies have so far failed to denuclearize North Korea. It is also believed that this conflict has no military solution because it is coupled with disastrous consequences for the entire region.

In order to reach a solution in Korean Peninsula, the political and military leaders in both Washington and Pyongyang should refrain from threatening behaviour. The United States has never had official diplomatic relations with North Korea.

The United States should begin bilateral talks with North Korea about the denuclearization of the peninsula which they are avoiding for a long time.

With the current right-wing politics of Trump and his clear imperialist design it seems that US imperialism is entering a new phase of confrontation and conflict globally

Reference:

[1] Donald Trupm (2017). “Remarks by President Trump to the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly”, United Nations, New York, September 19, 2017, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/09/19/remarks-president-trump-72nd-session-united-nations-general-assembly

[2] Kim Jong Un (2017), “Statement of Chairman of State Affairs Commission of DPRK”, September 22, 2017, http://www.rodong.rep.kp/en/index.php?strPageID=SF01_02_01&newsID=2017-09-22-0002

[3] RI YONG HO (2017), “Statement by H.E. Mr. RI YONG HO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the General Debate of the 72nd  Session of the United Nations General Assembly New York 23rd September 2017”, https://gadebate.un.org/sites/default/files/gastatements/72/kp_en.pdf

[4] Christine Kim & Jane Chung (2017), “North Korea 2016 economic growth at 17-year high despite sanctions – South Korea”, JULY 21, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/uk-northkorea-economy-gdp/north-korea-2016-economic-growth-at-17-year-high-despite-sanctions-south-korea-idUKKBN1A6083

[5] Valery Denisov (2000), “ Nuclear Institution and Organisation in North Korea”, in James Clay Moltz and Alexander Y. Mansourov (eds.) The North Korean Nuclear Program: Security, Strategy and New Perspective from Russia, London: Routledge, pp. 21-23.

Image credit: http://thelead.blogs.cnn.com/2013/04/10/the-u-s-vs-north-korea-inside-a-pentagon-war-game/

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