“Military force should only be used when necessary, but a nuclear-weapons armed North Korea is an extremely dangerous threat not just to Asia, but to the entire world…”
A senior White House official has stated that “the time has run out” for North Korea’s nuclear program. Under leader Kim Jong-un, North Korea has become increasingly antagonistic and aggressive. White House officials pointed to the failure of previous administrations to negotiate a peaceful resolution, and have stated that “all options” are on the table.
So far this year, North Korea has only grown more aggressive, conducting numerous long-range missile strikes. Officials from North Korea have stated repeatedly that the goal is to be able to strike the United States directly with nuclear weapons. On Wednesday morning, North Korea launched a projectile that is believed to be a missile into the Sea of Japan. The country has also conducted several nuclear tests over the years, but is not believed to currently possess the ability to mount a nuclear weapon on a long-range missile.
Apparently, North Korea is a major concern for the Trump administration. While past presidents have treated the belligerent rogue state as more of a sideshow, the Trump White House looks set to take on a more aggressive posture.
Trump is set to meet with Chinese President Xi Jingping this week, and North Korea is promised to be among the topics discussed. President Trump himself recently told the Financial Times, “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you.”
Meanwhile General John Hyten, the commander of US Strategic Command, has gone on record stating that he will be providing military options to the President.
Should the North Korean nuclear program have been addressed years ago?
North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon on October 6th, 2006. The detonation was carried out underground at the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site, and it is believed that the weapon was a .7 kiloton bomb. The most recent detonation was back in September of 2016, with the bomb blast estimated to have been 17.8KT. For comparison, the Fat Man bomb dropped on Nagasaki was estimated to weigh in at about 20 KT.
How did we even get to this point? While it’s tempting to blame President Obama or President Bush, the situation goes back much further. The North Koreans established a nuclear reactor in the early 1980’s, but claimed it was only for peaceful purposes. North Korea did sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1992 although withdrew in 2003. Previously, the International Energy Agency (IEA) found evidence that the country was producing more uranium than previously believed.
Hindsight is 20-20, but it’s easy to wonder if the United States and South Korea would have been better off if they had disabled North Korea’s nuclear reactors and capacities in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Military force should only be used when necessary, but a nuclear-weapons armed North Korea is an extremely dangerous threat not just to Asia, but to the entire world.
Now, North Korea may already have or be close to developing the capacity to launch a nuclear strike against its hated arch nemesis, South Korea. Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is only about 50 miles from North Korea and could already be within range of a nuclear strike. The Seoul metropolitan area is home to over 25 million people. The city is all but hostage to North Korean saber rattling.
Brian Brinker is an OpsLens Contributor and political consultant. Brinker has an M.A in Global Affairs from American University.