North Korea: the epicenter of the world

Military tensions rise as the world responds to North Korea's nuclear threat

North Korea

North Korea's latest nuclear weapons test was by far its most powerful. Potentially producing an explosive yield nearly 10 times stronger than that of the country's most advanced warhead; ity released 140 kilotons of TNT, according to a new US intelligence assessment. The world has condemned this test, as it has been against all UN sanctions.

Read also: China sets the rules in the North Korean nuclear crisis

North Korea has threatened to send "more gift packages" to the United States, days after testing the biggest nuclear weapon it has ever detonated. Han Tae-song, ambassador of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) to the United Nations in Geneva, addressed the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament on Tuesday after his country carried out its sixth nuclear test. "The US will receive more gift packages from my country as long as it relies on reckless provocations and futile attempts to put pressure on the DPRK", he added without elaborating.

Military measures being taken by North Korea were "an exercise of restraint and justified self-defense right [to counter] the ever-growing and decade-long US nuclear threat and hostile policy aimed at isolating my country. Pressure or sanctions will never work on my country", Han declared.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis joined President Donald Trump in issuing a stark warning to North Korea, saying the reclusive nation would have to deal with a “massive military response” if it threatens the United States or its allies. “Any threat to the United States or its territories, including Guam, or our allies will be met with a massive military response,” Mattis said in a prepared statement.

Read also: Are the US-South Korea military drills an act of instigation?

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has admitted she is not sure that sanctions will work to deter North Korea from moving forward with developing nuclear weapons, as North Korea promised more "gift packages" for the US following the nation's latest missile test. Haley insisted that the sanctions would cut off funding for its ballistic missile and nuclear programs.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said after meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Beijing that China remained committed to the goal of a non-nuclear Korean peninsula. China's full response to the nuclear test, which it "strongly opposed", will depend on the forthcoming debate in the United Nations Security Council.

The Russian president has warned that the escalating North Korean crisis could cause a planetary catastrophe and huge loss of life, and classified US’ proposals for further sanctions on Pyongyang as useless.  “Ramping up military hysteria in such conditions is senseless; it’s a dead end”, Putin said. “It could lead to a global, planetary catastrophe and a huge loss of human life. There is no other way to solve the North Korean nuclear issue, save that of peaceful dialogue.”

The United Nations secretary-general is warning the US and North Korea that "confrontational rhetoric may lead to unintended consequences" and stressing that the nuclear crisis must be solved diplomatically. Antonio Guterres says it's absolutely crucial that the UN Security Council is united in dealing with North Korea's nuclear and missile tests and that the US, Russia, China, Japan, and South Korea use one strategy.”

South Korea has announced it will temporarily deploy additional launchers for a US THAAD missile defense system, as its Defense Ministry said there were signs North Korea was preparing for more ballistic missile launches. Some construction of the controversial Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system will be carried out to deploy the four launchers at the site in Seongju, south of Seoul, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. There are currently two launchers at the location, a former golf course. The ministry did not specify when the launchers would be moved onto the site.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull called North Korea an "evil" regime and reiterated his demand that China cut North Korea's oil supply. "It is a cruel and evil dictatorship, he starves his own people," Turnbull said.

Despite continuing provocations and saber-rattling, the United States must continue to work with allies to strengthen deterrence and ramp up the pressure on North Korea – but it must also push for diplomacy. Negotiations are the only hope for easing tensions.

The United States and North Korea are locked in a dangerous cycle of escalation, but one that’s not new. North Korea tests a nuclear weapon; the United States responds with sanctions and military exercises. Eventually, tensions ease, and diplomacy appears possible, only to be scuttled by another North Korean provocative act. Rinse and repeat.

 

Latin American Post | Carlos Eduardo Gómez Avella

Copy edited by Susana Cicchetto

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