On Tuesday, North Korea’s military announced its latest threat against the United States and South Korea, stating that its missile and artillery units are on the “highest alert” to attack bases in the U.S. mainland, Hawaii, Guam, and South Korea. The announcement also marked the third anniversary of the death of 46 South Korean sailors on a warship that was torpedoed by North Korea—an event for which North Korea has neglected to take responsibility.
North Korea has continuously issued threats of turning Washington D.C. and Seoul into a “sea of fire.” Tensions escalated when North Korea launched a rocket in December, and conducted a nuclear test in February, despite international condemnation for these actions. North Korea has further declared that the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953 is no longer in effect. In response, the U.S. and South Korea pushed for stronger sanctions against North Korea. As a result, new financial and luxury sanctions will be issued by Japan and Australia in an attempt to target North Korean leadership. In preparation for escalation, the U.S. and South Korea conducted joint military drills this month to warn the North of its bellicose threats.
Despite North Korea’s threats of nuclear strikes, observers have assessed that North Korea is technologically incapable of delivering a nuclear warhead on a missile. It does, however, have military firepower force that includes medium-range missiles able to target distances of a few hundred miles. The U.S. is confident that it is fully capable of defending itself and its allies against any attack by North Korea, and is working to strengthen its ballistic missile defense systems across the West coast.
The North Korea development is particularly dangerous to the volatile nature of relationships in East Asia over power politics in the islands of Senkaku (Japan) or Diaoyu (China). War with North Korea, or even the exchange of missiles, presents a potentially serious geopolitical and economic issue for the United States, as Japan is a long-time ally of the United States, and China an economic necessity. Chaos could ensue if North Korea lit a match in East Asia with such international tension. However, if the US utilizes its soft power correctly, it could potentially suppress anti-Chinese sentiments in Japan (and vice-versa) by painting North Korea as the true aggressor and enemy.
Susan Jiang is a current freshman in the Dyson School hoping to specialize in Accounting and Finance. Other than serving as a International Sector analyst for Cornell Current, she is the VP of Internal Operations of the Microfinance Club. She is also a proud member of Cornell Business Review’s business team and 85Broads. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org