Is North Korea a Threat?
by Aeshna Chandra on Friday, April 26th, 2013
For the past month, North Korea has issued a steady stream of bellicose rhetoric directed towards the United States and South Korea, and has threatened to fire missiles without warning and incite a nuclear war. Whether this is just fist-shaking with nothing to back it up or a serious threat for the North’s enemies, tensions in the region have been getting progressively higher and won’t stop until regional and global powers find some form of resolution — peaceful, or violent.
When, in February, North Korea performed a nuclear test, an emergency session of the UN Security Council imposed more sanctions on North Korea. In response, Kim Jong-Un’s government started issuing warnings to the U.S. and South Korea. Although these threats include a vow to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire” and to set fire to the United States, the failing economy and lack of resources of Pyongyang suggest that Kim Jong-Un has no desire to launch a nuclear, let alone traditional, war with either the US or South Korea. In fact, North Korea is reliant on the West for food aid, and has used nuclear threats to leverage Western nations for aid in the past.
The North has “less than 30 days of fuel,” according to Peter Hayes, director of the Nautilus Institute, and though its army is larger than South Korea’s, most of their weaponry is Soviet-supplied and badly outdated. In addition, a large part of the North Korean population is malnourished, hardly the hallmark of a serious military threat. In other words, even the delusional regime in Pyongyang has to realize its military impotency.
The U.S., the world’s most powerful nation, seems to be taking the threats of a starving, poorly supplied country seriously, as seen in the tone of official American rhetoric. A missile-defense system was put into place in Guam, understandable since most of the missile threats were aimed at US naval bases. However, as President Obama said, the U.S. does not believe that Kim Jong-Un has the capability to launch a nuclear warhead but will prepare just in case, to prevent any possible attack.
There is no way to know for certain whether North Korea is bluffing or if the US is completely sure that North Korea won’t launch a nuclear missile. Still, even in the tension-filled Korean Peninsula, most signs indicate that the North’s bark is worse than its bite, particularly with the forces arrayed against it.
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