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Week in Review: North Korean Threats: Should We Be Concerned?

March 15, 2013

Brianna Kirk, ‘15

The news over the past week has been filled with recent developments from North Korea. Following an underground nuclear test in early February, North Korea’s nuclear missile capability has raised concern over whether the country has the ability to follow through with their alarming nuclear threats. The threats have been aimed primarily at South Korea and the United States and have raised concern among the White House and United Nations. More recently, North Korea has threatened to abandon the sixty year old armistice that resulted in the end of the Korean War between North and South Korea, according to Fox News on Monday.

In response to the current threats, the UN tightened sanctions against North Korea, which target the leadership and economy of the country. Almost immediately, Kim Jong Un threatened a preemptive nuclear strike against Washington, D.C. for its continuous efforts to reduce Korea’s nuclear capabilities. According to the Washington Times, a Pyongyang foreign ministry spokesman says the threats intend to enact punishment for western aggression, referring to Washington as the “aggressor in a nuclear attack” on North Korea.

Threats from North Korea are not new, says a CBS article, and have been recognized by press secretary Jay Carney, who stated they “follow a pattern designed to raise tension and intimidate others.” But does the consistency of Kim Jong Un’s “bellicose rhetoric” render the possibility of action unlikely? The White House claims that it does not take these threats lightly, and is concerned by Kim Jong Un’s alarming language about potential nuclear strikes aimed at the United States. In the same article, President Obama’s National Security Advisor Tom Donilon states that America will utilize all capabilities to “protect against and respond to” the threats posed to the United States and allies by North Korea.

Adding to the uncertainty, the United States and South Korea have begun military drills that North Korea has termed both “an open declaration of war” and “an act of war,” according to CNN. In response, Kim Jong Un alerted his troops to be on maximum alert for the potential of an imminent war triggered by a prospective cancellation of the 1953 armistice. The UN condemns North Korea’s building of nuclear weapons as well as the attempt to nullify the armistice.

There is no international consensus on the true motivations behind North Korea’s current threats to world peace. Some believe it is Kim Jong Un’s attempt to prove to his country that he is a powerful and worthy leader. Others believe North Korea is trying to force negotiations between themselves and other countries. Still others think that the country hopes to force the removal of U.S. troops from South Korea. Regardless of the motivations behind North Korea’s recent and robust threats, the world still waits to see whether those threats of nuclear attacks will come to pass.

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