Mobile Warheads, Idle Threats

Why North Korea Isn't a Threat

Martin Werner

Opposing Opinions

Photo: Chicago Tribune

The Fire and the Furious Two

Why North Korea Is a Threat

Elise Basil

October 7th, 2017

North Korea is no friend of the United States, but the magnitude of their recent threats have been exaggerated. One of the biggest stories was the recent threat to fire missiles at Guam, a U.S. territory with military bases—but this threat has been misinterpreted, mainly because of exaggeration in the media. Kim Jong Un and his regime are much less of a threat than many have perceived them to be.


What most people are missing is that the Guam threat, and almost all North Korea’s threats, are purely conditional. According to David Kang, the director of Korean Studies at the University of Southern California, North Korea’s goal is not to start any conflict, but to fight back with aggression if anyone decides to provoke them. This makes sense; the regime only wants to remain power, and it is doing this by avoiding conflict—but making it clear that it has the power to retaliate. The threat on Guam has many worried, but it is not preemptive; like all their threats before, it is conditional. Kim Jong Un threatened to use missiles on Guam only if the United States grows “more reckless,” as media outlets failed to communicate.


Some make the distinction that this new threat from North Korea is more alarming because the country now has the ability to follow through with newer technology (which they do). But North Korea’s threats are aimed at deterrence, rather than conflict. Since 1953, the United States has maintained peace with North Korea. During this extended and contemporary period, the regime has made many threats. But again,  these threats were conditional; only when said conditions were violated has North Korea acted. In 2010, North Korea launched an artillery attack on a South Korean island—but only after the North had “consistently warned that military exercises being conducted in the area would spark a retaliation.” Now that North Korea has the ability to follow through, it doesn’t really matter; if they are not provoked, they will not use it.


Thus, the hysteria surrounding an imminent bombing from the communist regime is unfounded. North Korea is surely not an ally, but it still isn’t an immediate threat to the United States.


Although we should not fear them, we should by no means ignore North Korea. We shouldn’t take their growing nuclear arsenal as a threat, but we should pay it close attention. The country’s nuclear program is growing fast, and by 2020, they might have 50 warheads. They now possess ICBM missiles capable of reaching the mainland of the United States, and recent intelligence reports believe that North Korea is now able to fit nuclear warheads on said ICBMs (before, North Korea’s ICBMs were incapable of carrying the massive warheads). North Korea knows that if they give up this nuclear power, they will be helpless against the United States and other global powers; they won’t be giving it up any time soon. If the country was completely irrational, they could immediately pose a threat to the U.S. with their arsenal. But the country is not completely irrational, and having the weapons does not mean they intend to use them unprovoked.


North Korea will also have to think twice before making any move, given the United States’ much larger nuclear arsenal; when compared, North Korea’s arsenal is next to nothing The country may have 50 warheads by 2020 compared to the United States' 1,411, all capable of reaching the Korean peninsula. North Korea knows its own potential, and it knows ours too; the country will not make the first move if it doesn’t have to. This is made clear by the nature of the previous threats; North Korea has rarely threatened to take preemptive action. Kim Jong Un knows that any attack on the United States or one of its allies is suicide for his regime, which he holds dearly.


The largest concern, then, is if Donald Trump decides to make the first move. But that means our greatest threat is not North Korea, but our own president. And that president poses many, many more threats to the country he leads; North Korea is no different. Still, Trump is not a complete idiot; unless North Korea provokes him, he will not decide to attack the country out of the blue. Really, the United States should be worried about a lot of other things that Donald Trump is threatening, rather than worrying about North Korea.


North Korea is a country we should be concerned with, but not yet threatened by. Their threats are idle and their military power is dwarfed by the United States’. Kim Jong Un will not attack one of the world’s greatest superpowers—as long as we don’t make him.

What matters is that when a second Korean war breaks out it, it would be a nuclear war.


The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (ironically otherwise known as North Korea) has recently been threatening to use nuclear weapons on the United States’ territory of Guam. They have been doing a massive amount of testing with nuclear weapons in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, leading the United States to brace for attacks from North Korea. As these two countries prepare to attack and counterattack each other, they will not be the only affected targets in the world: it’s openly known that once the first person strikes, North Korea will not hesitate to attack Seoul, the capital of South Korea. The United States has also attempted to contain North Korea through trade with China; North Korea depends heavily on trade with China. North Korea is in the prime location in the middle of all these countries; there is little stopping them from attacking anyone within a 10,000 kilometer radius.


In 1994, South Korea expressed concern over North Korean threat of attacking Seoul, and when the U.S responded to the threat, North Korea said they would wipe out all aggressors. Nearly fifteen years ago, in 2002, George W. Bush labeled North Korea as an “axis of evil” during his State of the Union speech. Ever since these threats from North Korea started, the U.S, South Korea, and Japan have been concerned about the DPRK using advanced nuclear technology. However statements made about using mass weaponry in the past twenty-five years have never been executed.


But what makes this new threat on Guam different is that North Korea’s main motive in attacking the US is that they are concerned that President Donald Trump is going to attempt to remove Kim Jong Un from office. One of Trump’s evangelical advisers claims that the president has “moral authority” from The Bible to remove Kim Jong-Un—not only from power, but from the planet. The adviser believes that Trump must do all things necessary to get rid of “evildoers” such as Kim Jong-Un.


Guam is an island in the western Pacific Ocean, slightly more than 2,000 miles away from North Korea. The United States territory of Guam is currently a station for three United States military bases, currently occupying thirty percent of the island. These include the Naval base of Guam, the Andersen Base, and the home of the US B1 and B2 Bombers—all making Guam a prime target for North Korea to strike.


With the increase of missile testing after Trump’s inauguration (fourteen tests in 2017), the DPRK has proven to have more than enough resources to attack Guam. On July 4, 2017, North Korea tested their KN-14 missile, which supposedly reaches intercontinental areas all over the world. Although they have recently been testing short range missiles that have little to no success, the DPRK is planning for a nuclear war.


The United States respects the power of the DPRK, but if they were to attack Guam, the United States would be able to retaliate within moments. With the US Osan Air base in South Korea being forty miles from the border, the States can monitor DPRK activity and are said  to be prepared to disarm any acts that North Korea might make. The United States wouldn’t waste the amount of time and energy it takes to counteract if they didn’t believe it was a threat.


There have also been some concerns with North Korea attacking Seoul and Tokyo. One of the tests that North Korea administered was audible in areas of Japan, causing chaos. North Korea is not just administrating nuclear missile tests; they are officially threatening other countries. If one of the “tests” went wrong, there could have been an unintentional attacked on Japan. The United States, South Korea, and Japan have teamed up in order to try and prevent North Korea from attacking anyone with their advanced nuclear weapons. If North Korea had or does end up “Unintentionally hitting Japan or any country for that matter, the United States with retaliate is moments and all hell will break loose.


As each country prepares for the other to strike, both countries view it as an act of aggression towards one another. The two countries are unable to feel at ease knowing that the other one has weapons. The North Korean dangers are nothing new, but the United States suggesting to eliminate Kim Jong Un could be the ammunition that gives North Korea a reason to strike. The US territory of Guam is also evidently in range of a North Korean attack.  The United States sees the testing of nuclear missiles as a threat, and vice-versa. That is why they both are spending time preparing for a war that neither of them can afford to fight. There are multiple countries at risk of being attacked, as the trade between China and North Korea still stands (with slight fluctuation). Once North Korea and the United States commence nuclear warfare, it is inevitable that they pull other Asian countries to choose sides: South Korea, China, and Japan. Knowing the risks, other countries have publicly stated that they want the dispute to be settled rationally and diplomatically. But until both parties can come to some sort of formal agreement, the United States and North Korea are looking towards a major crisis in the future, one that they cannot afford.