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North Korea missile threats reignite international tensions


Throughout the month of August, escalating threats from North Korea regarding the launch of missile strikes on US territory have pushed hostility levels between countries to an all time high. With increasing tensions being fueled by continuous exchanges of antagonistic dialogue between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, the potential for an attack appears to have risen—and discussions of war are rife across the Korean peninsula. Recent threats from Kim to fire four intermediate range missiles near Guam have added to the urgency of the situation.

“As far as international laws and concerns go, the missile tests that North Korea has been conducting are illegitimate,” said Michael Silber, history teacher and forensics coach. “On the other hand, from North Korea’s perspective, they see their country as under siege, with the US, South Korea, and even Japan as their enemies—to North Korea, the missile threats are simply a form of defensive posture that is being taken in response to what they view as threats to their nation.”

North Korea reportedly tested two intercontinental ballistic missiles back in July, showing its mastery of multistage intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) technology: a feat which would ultimately allow the country to hit the continental United States. While expert views differ on whether or not the missiles would be able to carry heavy loads such as a nuclear warhead far enough to strike the US west coast, the world is increasingly acknowledging North Korea’s capabilities of producing missile-compatible warheads with heat resistant mechanisms. With Kim warning the US of their joint exercises with South Korea, which began on Aug. 21, the viability of the North Korean threats seems to be a pressing issue for the nation.

“North Korea still has not exhibited an ability to attach a nuclear warhead to the missiles, which is the most difficult part of the procedure,” said Leonard Lee (10), MUN delegate. “Even so, with North Korea globally classified as a ‘rogue nation,’ it will probably continue to threaten the international community.”

While efforts of denuclearization in the Korean peninsula have been made through diplomatic and economic pressure, Trump has emphasized that US military options are “locked and loaded.” According to a commentary in the Wall Street Journal by James Mattis and Rex Tillerson, the Secretaries of Defense and State, the US is now replacing the failed policy of “strategic patience” with a new policy of “strategic accountability,” taking on a diplomatic maximum-pressure approach backed by militaristic measures. However, whether this new position will lessen the North Korean threat is still a prominent question.

“I am a little skeptical of whether the tough tactics that Donald Trump has pursued will be successful,” Mr. Silber said. “The problem seems to be that there are fewer incentives for the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to come to the negotiating table. Rather than asserting mere threats, the US pursuing the sunshine policy or having China apply more pressure to North Korea may be a more worthwhile solution. Ultimately, North Korea has to be given some guarantees—such as security measures or economic help—before there are going to be any long-term peace solutions.”