Making Sense of North Korea

By Todd Norman
North Korea has been a consistently trending topic on search engines and social media during Donald Trump's presidency. There are plenty of articles poking fun at the DPRK, and then those that paint a more disturbing picture.

With all the tension and unease surrounding our current relationship with the North Korean government, and with Kim Jong Un, it's a good idea to piece together what's really going on, and what, if any, threats there are to our national security.

Let's recap what's been going on with North Korea/US relations:

1800's to 1994

North Korea and the United States have been at odds with each other for sometime. The earliest contemporary dispute dates as far back as 1866, known widely as the General Sherman incident.

An armed trade schooner failed to head officials and follow protocol as it sailed towards Pyongyang. The ship came under fire with North Korea, the entire crew was killed.

The US later established trade relations in 1882, but that was not the last of the two nations' disagreements.

The current status of our North Korean relations can mostly be traced back to the end of World War II. In the book Two Koreas: A Contemporary History the author explains the division and animosity of north Korea towards the United States.

In short the USSR began to occupy North Korea. To avoid them occupying the whole of it, US soldiers divided North Korea and South Korea. This was meant to be a temporary measure. As the cold war began and Russian-US Relations worsened the divide became permanent.


In 1994 President Bill Clinton suspected North Korea of creating plutonium for nuclear weapons. North Korea denied permission to International Inspectors to verify the Regime's adherence to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. December of that year a US Helicopter was shot down over North Korea.
This was the start of continued strain between the US and North Korea. While steps were made to normalize relations between the two nations in 2007, this did not last. 
In 2009 American Journalists were arrested and sentenced to 12 years hard labor. Former President Bill Clinton made a surprise visit to the country when the release was secured for the journalists, and they came home with him.
In 2010 a ship in the South Korean Navy was sunk, evidence pointed to North Korea although the cause remains in dispute. As a direct response the US set plans to participate in New Military excursuses with South Korea.

Following the death of Kim Jong-Il and under the leadership of Kim Jong-Un North Korea launched their first satellite into space in 2012. This caused concern as this meant that North Korea could have their own guidance systems for missiles.

2012 marked the year the world began watching the missile program of North Korea very closely. They had their first successful launch in December of that year.

A threat was made against the US in 2013 stating that "rockets were ready to be fired at American bases in the pacific, it was also noted this year that North Korea began renovating a nuclear reactor plant that had previously been suspended of activity in 2007.

This caused concern and worry about a missile strike from North Korea, and if that were to happen, the inevitable war that would follow.

In 2016 a North Korean diplomat declared that the US had declared war with North Korea by putting Kim Jong-Un on a list of sanctioned individuals.

Tensions have been high with North Korea over the past few years. But tensions have never been higher that this year as words and threats have been exchanged between President Trump and the North Korean government.

In addition to potential threats to our nations's security it's also important to point out that the nation itself has had many civil rights issues and complaints. In a testimony given in 2002 Lee Soon-ok said "I testify that most of the 6,000 prisoners who were there when I arrived in 1987 had quietly perished under the harsh prison conditions by the time I was released in 1992."

Another prisoner captured in 2016 was an American named Otto Warmbier. He was captured, and sentenced to prison. Later he was released and sent home in a Comma only to later die as a result of his injuries.


The administration of Donald Trump has seen several instances in the past year when tensions have been high between both countries, Sometimes referred to as the North Korean Crisis.

2017 started with a speech from Kim Jong-Un stating that the country was in its last stages of preparing to test an intercontinental missile.

Through out this year North Korea has continued to launch missile tests despite sanctions and warnings from other countries including the US, including a scheduled launch on July 4th, American Independence day. They have demonstrated that their missile and nuclear program have developed further than previously expected.

This lead up to August of 2017 when harsh rhetoric began to build between the US and North Korea after a US Intelligence assessment noted that North Korea had successfully created a nuclear warhead capable of fitting inside a intercontinental missile.

This means could mean that North Korea can build a nuclear missile capable of striking US mainland.

In response President Trump warned North Korea that any nuclear threat would be met with "fire, fury, and frankly power the likes of which the world has never seen before"

This statement was met with much speculation as to what kind of force the president was referring to, and if he was suggesting at a future war with North Korea.

President Trump later stated about Kim Jong-Un "he has been very threatening, beyond a normal state."

Tensions built as North Korea responded by stating that they were considering launching an attack against US Military bases in Guam.

It appears that this threat was empty words, as an attack did not come, with North Korean officials stating that they were waiting for Trump's next move.

Late August another missile was launched, this time over Japan, as an apparent show of power.

Retaliations through September included more sanctions from the US and a speech from President Trump where he stated that the united states "if it is forced to defend itself or it's allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. This again let to speculation of a potential war with North Korea.

The most recent threat has raised tension once again. On November 28th North Korea launched another test missile. Initial Pentagon assessments have drawn the conclusion that it was an intercontinental ballistic missile.

It appears that the reentry vehicle failed to survive reentry. While not a total success, it has shown that North Korea is continuing to test and improve on their missiles.

In regards to the launch, President Trump simply stated "we'll handle it"

Potential Threats to National Security

There are many who are concerned right now, including General Thurman a former General in charge of US forces in South Korea. He has stated "the last thing we need over there is a military conflict, because it will be very bloody." He also stated it's critical that US leaders are "steady in the saddle" referring to the rhetoric between the White House and Kim Jong-Un.

Some, including Senator Lindsey Graham have suggested that US personnel should be evacuated from South Korea due to threat of war.

Right now there is no sure sign of whether or not the US will end up becoming engaged in a war with South Korea as of yet. We do however know that they do not have any intentions of stopping their missile testing. Launches have continued. In addition the heated rhetoric has continued, even to the point of name calling.
Currently no evidence shows that North Korea has even developed a guidance system accurate enough for a missile to actually be able to hit mainland US.
While that may be the case there is still cause for concern. Targeting Japan or South Korea would be much easier targets, and would still drag America into the war, but it would bring America to their territory as opposed to them attacking us directly. There is still high potential far casualties.
The United States is obligated to help Japan in defense from a treaty that was signed at the end of World War II. And as Senator Graham pointed out, there are still many troops stationed in South Korea.
A larger concern is whether or not North Korea's allies will back the country in case of war. China is one ally that has that potential. It has hinted at the possibility that it will back North Korea if the US were to stick first.
More recently the Chinese air force has performed drills and exercises in routes and areas it has never flown before. The South China Morning Post quotes one military expert name Li Jie as stating "The timing of this high-profile announcement by the [People's Liberation Army] is also a warning to Washington and Seoul not to provoke Pyongyang any further."
It seems that if the current rhetoric and strategy from our White House don't change, we are heading into a potentially bloody war with North Korea. A country which is developing technology that could target the US mainland with a nuclear warhead. 
A potential war seems likely to be perhaps a few years in the future yet, but that makes the now all the more important. For our leaders and officials and for us as individuals.
While a strike here in the US is less likely than one of our allies, we still can use this time to ready ourselves and our families. Wars can be trying, and it's best to have our own supplies. Food, water and a good savings will be very helpful if war were to break out.
Right now the best option seems to prepare for what may come. Stay Safe!
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