The rhetoric in what has become known as the North Korea Crisis has just been upped with US President Donald Trump declaring that he will unleash “fire and fury the like of which the world has never seen”.
This escalation of words came as it emerged, according to US intelligence, that North Korea has achieved its aim of making a nuclear warhead small enough to mount on its ballistic missiles.
It is beyond doubt that Kim Jong-Un, like his father Kim Jong-Il, has pushed for nuclear ability and has perhaps caught many off-guard with the speed of its development. It’s hardly surprising though. North Korea’s “enemy” America has a habit of imposing regime change, and both Sadam Hussein and Colonel Gadaffi had nuclear ambitions. This has led Jong-Un to conclude that the only way to not end up the same way was to deliver on those nuclear plans, which it appears he has done.
The Anti-America rhetoric stems back to the Korean War, which has never technically ended. The conflict saw America back South Korea against Chinese & Russian backed communist North.
The latest threats are on a new scale though. In response to Trumps “fire and fury” statement, North Korea has said it is considering launching missile strikes on the Pacific island of Guam which is a United States Overseas Territory. Andersen Air Force Base on Guam is home to B1 and B2 strategic bombers. In what appears to be a direct threat to the US North Korean state TV said they were “carefully examining the operational plan for making an enveloping fire at the areas around Guam”.
That threat alone will almost certainly have the USA looking at all options to protect itself including pre-emptive military action. Some have suggested that the United States has considered options to destroy North Korea’s nuclear facilities. Any such move though would almost certainly need to be approved by North Korea’s neighbour China. The Chinese Government are North Korea’s only ally but have become increasingly intolerant of Kim Jong-Uns rhetoric, knowing that any conflict on the Korean Peninsula would have severe implications for China and it could be dragged into a war it has no desire to fight.
Any move without the support China and the UN could see China, and possibly Russia being bound to act and effectively forced into “picking a side”.
In a straight out fight there would only be one winner though, whilst North Korea appears to have nuclear weapons, there are likely to be few in number and their long-range capability is still questionable but any form of conflict is likely to not remain as a straight out fight between 2 nations and any nation using nuclear weapons would certainly have a global effect.
North Korea having nuclear weapons also tips the nuclear scales. The world is set up in a kind of nuclear balance that has been responsible for the longest period of peace in modern history. That is achieved by countries having diplomatic relations and the threat of “Mutually Assured Destruction” i.e. if Russia launches a strike against the US, it will have a full retaliatory response with an equal number of weapons. Rogue states such as North Korea upset that balance and it’s clear that North Korea doesn’t deal in diplomacy.
It is hard to grasp though what Kim Jon-Un wants to achieve. An attack on the US would be suicidal for North Korea with retaliation coming 10 fold. The whole situation renders Jong-Un akin to a cult leader who wants to lead his people into oblivion in the same way as the Branch Davidians did at Waco.
The whole situation seems to be escalating daily and whilst not, at the same rate as the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, some are drawing parallels between the two situations with nuclear-equipped heads of state engaged in a stand-off with the rest of the world watching with its breath held. Will cooler heads prevail once again?