Should We Care About North Korea’s Threats?

North and South Korea have technically been at war since the 1950-1953 civil war ended not in a peace treaty, but in an armistice. For decades, North Korea has been threatening military action. Last week brought an announcement that it has entered a “state of war” with South Korea — but the communist North, long closed to outsiders and with a floundering economy, has been thought to be rattling its saber.

Or rather, some see it as poking at the controls of its nuclear arsenal. In February, the North conducted a nuclear weapons tests. Pyongyang has threatened to attack South Korea and its chief ally, the U.S. Should the U.S. fear that war could be imminent?

Is North Korea Sending Out Warnings?

The recent “stream of belligerent rhetoric” is thought to be a sign that its young leader, Kim Jong-un, is solidifying his power in his own country, says the Guardian. In a sign that Kim is seeking to restore his country’s long-troubled economy, former prime minister Pak Pong-ju, known as an economic technocrat who is believed to favor opening North Korea’s economy as China has done, was promoted to be a standing member of the Politburo.

The 30-year-old Kim could also be ratcheting up the rhetoric to try to win concessions from the U.S. in the form of (1) aid and (2) a promise not to launch a pre-emptive strike on his country. The threats could also be a response to Pyongyang’s finding itself the target of more United Nations sanctions, notes the New York Times.

The U.S. does not believe that North Korea has the capacity to launch nuclear warheads on missiles or to send conventional missiles to the U.S. mainland. This past Sunday, the U.S. offered what could be called a show of its own military strength, deploying F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets from a base in Japan to participate in drills. The week before, two U.S. B-2 stealth bombers had been used in what the Guardian has called a “dummy bombing of an uninhabited South Korean island,” an activity that has enraged North Korea.

South Korea Says It Will Retaliate

South Korea’s leader, President Park Geun-hye, who was elected earlier this year, had so far taken a conciliatory stance towards the North. Indeed, a central feature of her campaign platform was “not to be blackmailed by the North, a popular conservative stance in the last few years,” says the New York Times.

But Park is also seeking to avoid the predicament of her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, who was widely criticized as having too slowly, and insufficiently, responded to two incidents in 2010, when North Korea torpedoed a South Korea naval ship and also shelled Yeonpyeong, an island on the maritime border the two countries share, and killed 50 South Koreans.

On Monday, Park unequivocally told senior South Korean military officials that “if there is any provocation against South Korea and its people, there should be a strong response in initial combat, regardless of the political considerations.”

The U.S. military command in South Korea has emphasized that the North “would achieve nothing by threats or provocations,” which would only further isolate the country and also “undermine international efforts” for peace in Northeast Asia. It’s a suggestion that the U.S. is wary of seeming to take North Korea’s latest pronouncements as anything more than provocative bullying.

Small-scale attacks on the South’s military and on the islands near the two countries’ borders are not out of the question, and a war on the Korean Peninsula is something the U.S. — and Russia and China — could not ignore.

Related Care2 Coverage

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Photo from Thinkstock

141 comments

Marcel Elschot
Marcel E3 years ago

Thanks for sharing

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John Hablinski
John Hablinski3 years ago

Ros, Of course I am aware of the nature and strength of the relationship our two countries share and the geography of your neighborhood of the world. I have no idea what is about to happen in North Korea. The concern is real and palpable here but we are ½ a world away here in the lower 48 states. Alaska and Hawaii are much closer and I have seen an Alaskan mention they haven’t heard many speaking concerning their proximity to the kid with the bomb. Without doubt your degree of concern must be considerably higher and justifiably so.
You mention “the US military might is building up.” We have maintained a considerable presence in South Korea and while I would say this young man has our attention I don’t see us jumping through hoops at this point. I am aware that we have moved some naval assets into the area and though I have no knowledge but my bet is that more are on the way. We have F22 Stealth Fighters in South Korea and we dispatched two B2 Stealth Bombers from their home base in Missouri to South Korea and back, we are told they dropped a couple of dummy bombs. I saw a U2 landing on tonight’s news and I have no idea how many satellites are focused on the area. I’m sure the Japanese are as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs and who can blame them, you’re in the neighborhood but they are next door.
The people of the US are war weary and we are broke but there is nothing like an attack on our nation or th

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Darryll Green
Darryll Green3 years ago

the prez should do it the easy way, park a F-111 stealth fighter over n korea and shoot down every missle they send up, then no one has to worry

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Chad Anderson
Chad A3 years ago

I have lived in South Korea for about 14 years and have been through a lot of scary times so, like most Koreans, I do not get too worked up over it, having seen an island bombed in my city, a ship torpedoed, numerous naval clashes, computer sabotage, the slaying of a tourist who wandered into a restricted area, numerous cross-border shootings, and numerous defections, and probably other incidents I am forgetting. We have "seen it all" and are used to the ever-present danger of war in the way I was as a boy at the end of the Cold War.

On the other hand, the North is pushing its negotiating hand very hard in ways where any mistake could lead to disaster. I sure do hope that the US and the North get back to the negotiating table soon.

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Kathleen S.
Kathleen S3 years ago

Of course we have to care. They have a madman willing to push our buttons, and the button.

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Tim C.
Tim C3 years ago

ty

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Neil A.
Neil A3 years ago

Mostly bluster I should think as all their neighbours could flatten them if they did fire anything???
North Korea looking for something from the USA.

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Malgorzata Zmuda
Malgorzata Z3 years ago

Mamy XXI wiek, jesteśmy po przejściach I i II wojny światowej i niczego nie nauczyliśmy się, nadal brak pokoju na świecie, wybuchają ciągle nowe konflikty, brat staje przeciw bratu. Kiedy wreszcie zapanuje pokój. Jak ma panować pokój na Ziemi, skoro brak go w naszych rodzinach, sąsiedztwie? Spróbujmy wprowadzać go w najbliższym otoczeniu, to będzie pierwszy krok do pokoju na świecie.

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Suzanne L.
Suzanne S3 years ago

I'm not sure about the intention of all the blustering from North Korea. I think it's concerning, but frankly if Kim Jong-un starts something he'll get a huge reality check.

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Diane K.
Diane K3 years ago

It is scary, even though may only be threat from N. Korea. Anything nuclear scares the daylights out of me. Thanks for posting.

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