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Following the recent assassination of the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and the launching of four ballistic missiles, widespread reports are now claiming that the United States is considering military action against North Korea.
Already the United States has begun publicly deploying anti-missile systems in South Korea, sending a message to the North that further aggression will not be tolerated.
The North Korean released a report relating to the missile tests stating that their purpose was to practice targeting American bases, specifically in this case those in Japan:
“the KPA Strategic Force tasked to strike the bases of the US imperialist aggressor forces in Japan in contingency.”
White House press secretary Sean Spicer responded on behalf of the Trump administration:
“The launches are consistent with North Korea’s long history of provocative behavior. The United States stand with our allies in the face of this very serious threat.
Saber rattling has been going on between the two countries for decades, but if a tipping point is close to being reached, just what form could U.S military action take?
Although North Korea doesn’t have the same level of technology nor resources of the United States, they do have a massive standing army, and a prolonged conflict could be costly regarding the political repercussion both internally and internationally, not to mention the loss of troops.
A tactical strike aimed at eliminating North Korea’s nuclear capabilities would seem the more prudent option, but with a new and so far untested president in control, it isn’t fully clear just how many different options the United States are considering.
The other main purpose of military action could be to remove Kim Jong Un from power, essentially leaving the reclusive nation leaderless and with a huge power vacuum.
Perhaps the most important consideration of any military action against North Korea would have to be the implications for South Korea. Since the distance between the United States and North Korea is considerable and that South Korea would likely be used as a staging post for most American strikes, South Korea would almost certainly bear the brunt of a North Korean retaliation.
South Korea has stated in the past that the fall of the North Korean regime would not necessarily lead to a united Korea as some people might assume. The fact that there is such a disparity between the standards of living in the two countries would mean that an unsustainable large flood of migrants from the North to the South would occur, plunging the latter into economic ruin.
Given that North Korea poses virtually no risk in either a naval or air capacity, their options for retaliation against any American military action would be limited to either missile strikes or an incursion over land into South Korea.