The conflict between the United States and North Korea shows no signs of calming down anytime soon. On Saturday, April 15th, North Korea held a parade showcasing its military and their intercontinental ballistic missiles. Tens of thousands of soldiers goose-stepped through Kim Il Sung Square as they celebrated the birthday of the founder of the current North Korean regime.
The North Korean government tested a missile later in the day, but the ordinance exploded not long after the launch. While the attempt failed, their weapons program remains a threat. The state’s leadership has continued to engage in aggressive rhetoric against the United States. The Washington Examiner reports:
Choe Ryong Hae said President Donald Trump was guilty of “creating a war situation” on the Korean Peninsula by dispatching U.S. forces to the region.
“We will respond to an all-out war with an all-out war and a nuclear war with our style of a nuclear attack,” said Choe, widely seen by analysts as North Korea’s No. 2 official.
The parade, the annual highlight of North Korea’s most important holiday, came amid growing international worries that North Korea may be preparing for its sixth nuclear test or a major missile launch, such as its first flight test of an ICBM capable of reaching U.S. shores.
The North Korean regime is flaunting its power in response to the United States’ strike in Syria and the subsequent deployment of a naval strike force to the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang views these recent actions as a sign of aggression against their totalitarian government. However, the U.S. has not yet decided to use military force against North Korea. The Washington Examiner notes:
U.S. officials told The Associated Press on Friday that the Trump administration had settled on a policy that will emphasize increasing pressure on Pyongyang with the help of China, North Korea’s only major ally, instead of military options or trying to overthrow Kim’s regime.
A U.S. military official, who requested anonymity to discuss planning, said the United States doesn’t intend to use military force against North Korea in response to either a nuclear test or a missile launch.
Meanwhile, China is attempting to ease tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. Chinese President Xi Jinping recently met with President Donald Trump to discuss the North Korean situation. President Trump has repeatedly called on China to provide more assistance in dealing with North Korea, and he has also stated that the United States is willing to take action against Pyongyang with or without Chinese support.
As North Korea’s strongest ally, China may be the only country with the ability to persuade them to abandon their nuclear ambitions. China accounts for more than seventy percent of North Korea’s trade volume — providing most of the nation’s energy and food. Earlier in the month of April, China imposed sanctions on coal being shipped to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The Chinese government recently stated that North Korea should comply with the international community. Reuters reports:
On Thursday, an influential state-backed Chinese newspaper said the best option for North Korea and its leader Kim Jong Un was to give up its nuclear program.
“As soon as North Korea complies with China’s declared advice and suspends nuclear activities … China will actively work to protect the security of a denuclearized North Korean nation and regime,” said an editorial in the Global Times, which is published by the Communist party’s People’s Daily.
Since replacing his father as the head of the North Korean government, President Kim Jong Un has focused most of his efforts on building his military. Last year, Pyongyang staged two nuclear tests. In his annual New Year’s address, Kim stated that North Korea is in the final stages of developing intercontinental ballistic missiles which could strike targets within the United States. The parade is viewed by many as the DPRK’s way to “flex its muscles.”
Although North Korea’s long-range missile test failed, there is no doubt that the regime is working to increase the range of their weapons. While the U.S. has not publicly committed to using military force, the presence of our naval strike force in the region — along with our recent attacks in Syria and Afghanistan — shows that President Trump is willing to use force when necessary.
The U.S. has stated that they will consider using tougher sanctions against Pyongyang to coerce them into curbing their military efforts. Unfortunately, this approach has repeatedly failed in the past; both the Bush and Obama administrations used sanctions with no success. If China is unable or unwilling to apply enough pressure, it is possible that President Trump will decide to use military strikes to force the regime to cease its activities. As it stands, the Chinese government seems to be the only entity who can prevent war in Korea.