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All signs seem to be indicating that President Trump’s administration is gearing up to launch away against North Korea.
In many ways, the current Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong-Un doesn’t differ greatly from the two previous leaders, his grandfather and father Kim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il. All three men proved themselves to be volatile agents on the international stage, who were prone to childish outbursts, empty declarations of war and overseeing serious breaches of the law in neighboring countries.
While Kim Jong-Un is ostensibly less military-minded than his two predecessors, with an agenda that focusses more on education and healthcare than the army, it is under his reign that the highly controversial North Korean nuclear weapons program has come to fruition and this is a major concern for outside parties.
The recent spate of North Korean ballistic missile tests has shown that the Hermit Kingdom is coming closing to being able to strike long-range targets. It is assumed that the target of these missiles would be American bases either in Japan or the overseas American territories such as Guam. There is even a remote possibility that North Korea could soon acquire the capability to aim a nuclear missile at the west coast of the United States. This presents the first time in history that North Korea have presented a real and serious existential threat to their long-term enemy, the United States, and it is clear that representatives from President Trump’s administration are not prepared to take it lightly.
The Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has claimed that the era of ‘strategic patience’ with regards to North Korea was over and now the United States and their allies in the East Asian region had to consider all options. At a meeting between President Trump and the Chinese President Xi Jinping, President Trump had it clear that his preferred method of dealing with the situation was to allow China to convince the North Koreans to abandon their nuclear weapons program.
North Korea is economically dependent on China to a large extent, and yet, the strength of the relations between North Korea and China is chronically overstated in the West. North Korea is a strongly nationalistic state that has historically tended to bear little thought to the wishes of the Chinese government if they do not align with North Korea’s interests. During the years of the Cold War, North Korea sustained itself as a client state of both China and Russia particularly in periods of rough Sino-Soviet relations.
This was because both countries saw the value of having North Korea as a neutral buffer zone between the two ideologically conflicted and powerful communist countries. Even during this time, there was little mutual respect between North Korea and the Chinese, and in recent years this has tended to spill into outright contempt and hostility on occasion. All of this means that China is unlikely to be able to convince North Korea to give up their nuclear weapons program.
This all seems to suggest that the only option remaining to the United States will be a military intervention in North Korea. The South Korean forces and the United States have been in training for this possibility since the first Korean War in the years following partition.