News: Forget Healthcare, What About North Korea?

​A State of Turmoil:

14. The number of missiles that North Korea has tested in 2017 alone. It’s most recent? Last Friday, July 28th. According to various news sources, the missile appeared in the sea just off the coast of Japan. Japanese chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, reported, “the missile flew for about 45 minutes and appeared to have landed in the waters of Japan’s exclusive economic zone.” The US and South Korea have also confirmed the launch. Although the type of the missile is still unclear, the test is part of North Korea’s latest efforts to build reliable long-range missiles, with the ultimate goal of hitting US mainland. Just this month, North Korea made headlines with news of its first successful test of an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) named Hwasong-14. Allegedly, Hwasong-14 has the ability to hit any part of the world, but experts say that it could, at best, reach Alaska. However, Friday's test is being seen as a more advanced version of Hwasong-14. Experts say that the missile which flew 3,700 km high and a distance of 1,000 km, would be able to hit major US cities including Los Angeles and Chicago, possibly even New York and Boston.

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In 1985, North Korea signed the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), only to become the first nation to withdraw from the agreement in 2003. Since 2005, North Korea has publicly announced its possession of nuclear weapons, and its leader, Kim Jong-un claims that the entire US mainland is now within range of North Korea’s ICBMs. The inter-continental missile which was launched from Mupyong-ni, landing off the coast of Japan on Friday, is seen as an unusual test. It is said that a test was expected following recent activity at the UN, as the US has been pushing China to impose stricter sanctions on North Korea. In addition, Pentagon officials explained that if a new test were to occur, it was likely to take place on July 27th, marking the 64th anniversary of the Korean armistice agreement. However, an expert in North Korea’s Missile Program at the James Martin Center for nonproliferation studies, Melissa Hanham, pointed out that most of North Korea’s tests occurred at dawn and were never launched from the Chagang province.

The test has resulted in major US retaliatory talks. US Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis said, “America’s commitment to defend its regional allies from North Korea remains ironclad. We remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies from any attack of provocation.” In a written statement about the test, US President Donald Trump wrote, “Threatening the world, these weapons and tests further isolate North Korea, weaken its economy and deprive its people. The United States will take all necessary steps to ensure the security of the American homeland and protect our allies in the region.” Echoing these statements, US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley stated during a Security Council meeting, “We are prepared to use considerable military forces in North Korea.” In reaction to the test, the US and South Korea staged a joint military exercise, sending a strong message of force to Pyongyang. Japan has said that it will join Washington’s efforts to fight North Korea, while China, perhaps North Korea’s greatest ally, has condemned the tests as a violation to North Korea’s commitment to UN Security Council resolutions. Nonetheless, China insists that the US and South Korea should not resort to military force as a method of diffusing tension in the region.

What’s next?

One thing is for certain, North Korea will continue to tests these ICBMs. The Trump Administration has been prioritizing domestic issues like healthcare and immigration, at the cost of foreign ones. Apart from flying US B-1 bombers over the Korean peninsula and blaming China for its idleness, it has talked very little about North Korea’s impending missile threat. In fact, the US has said that it will not call a Security Council meeting over North Korea, as Mrs. Haley believes it will be ineffective, and only confirm that the international community isn’t willing to react. In the meantime, Kim Jong-un has proven that the threat of US military action, and further UN sanctions will not deter him from his goal of achieving nuclear superiority. Last year, UN Member-States signed a Security Council Resolution on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament, to urge nations who have not signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty, to join the fight to end the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Civil Society is taking action at the UN through the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, otherwise known as I CAN. There are many organizations around the world that have joined the effort to achieve non-violence and disarmament, including Reaching Critical Will, Nonviolence International, The Arms Control Association, The Brookings Institution, and The Center for Nonproliferation Studies. However, the present crisis proves that there is still much work to be done and that the future is, as always, unpredictable.

For a detailed timeline on North Korea’s nuclear history, click here

For a list of NGOs that have joined the fight for disarmament, click here