In recent weeks, the U.S. and North Korean governments have been engaged in a heated exchange prompted by North Korea’s continued development and testing of nuclear warheads.
On Sunday, Sept. 3, nine days before the beginning of the U.N.’s 72nd session, seismic readings of 6.3 in the Pacific Ocean indicated that North Korea’s most recent nuclear weapons test was bigger than any other that has been conductedin North Korea, according to the BBC. North Korean state media called it a “perfect success” and a “very meaningful step in completing the national nuclear weapons programme.”
As North Korea has taken to the testing grounds, President Trump has taken to Twitter, expressing that the U.S. is prepared to use “devastating” military action if necessary, according to CNN.
Last Monday, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho claimed U.S. President Trump had “declared war” on his country in response to his inflammatory tweets. The same day, the White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders responded, stating that the suggestion was “absurd.”
This war of words between North Korea and the U.N. could be pushing the region closer to the brink of an accidental conflict, but both countries are still determined to avoid conflict at all costs, according to CNN.
“North Korea is being quite careful so that there is no accidental clash,” South Korean Liberty Korea Party lawmaker Lee Cheol-woo said.
In many ways this is much more a stalemate between the two countries as nuclear powers, neither ready to take the step towards war yet neither willing to step down, according to Fox News.
“The North Koreans assume that the threats will be enough to restrain United States action but the United States might be thinking the same thing,” the Stratfor vice president of strategic analysis told CNN. “So you end up in a situation where a provocation from one side is seen by the other as an actual move towards war.”
Junior Hallie Hite said that it’s been discouraging to watch the U.S. respond to North Korea as they have.
“In the age of social media and global community, every piece of communication by a country’s leaders is crucial,” Hite said. “While North Korea is communicating with weapons tests, the president of the United States is communicating via Twitter and empty threats. This signifies a morose outlook for our country, if the situation escalates to a level where communication keeps us from the brink of war.”
According to Kevin Klein, professor of history and endowed chair of the Department of History and Political Science, North Korea’s verbal aggression is nothing new, but their nuclear weaponry and the temperaments of these newly-interacting world leaders is a novel element in the countries’ relations.
“There have been worse moments than the moment we are at right now,” Klein said. “But we have really different dynamics because of the leadership and because of the culmination of their nuclear program.”
While Klein noted the uniqueness and unpredictability of the personalities interacting, he expressed that heightened aggression between the U.S. and North Korea was an inevitable part of North Korea’s long-term weapons development plan.
“No matter who this current president was, if it was Hillary, Hillary would be facing nuclear-armed, belligerent North Korea,” Klein said. “How would she respond? She might respond differently –– I would think that she would respond differently –– but they would be facing the same problem. This problem precedes the current administration, but it is culminating … You always inherit Korea. Since 1953, you inherit Korea.”
According to Klein, whether or not nuclear war is likely in the near future, North Korea’s weaponization is a cause for concern.
“These are the necessary ingredients for (war) to happen, so people are properly alerted,” Klein said. “It is absolutely appropriate to have this level of concern. There are only five recognized hydrogen bomb countries in the world. So this is a pretty elite club this little hermit kingdom has now entered.”
Written by Justin Duyao and Delilah Pope