You’ve heard it said many times: there are no viable solutions to the North Korean problem. As time progresses, the situation with North Korea continues to intensify. Last week, the rogue nation test launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that some experts believe could reach the west coast of the United States. Recent events involving Pyongyang’s weapons program has caused no small amount of tension between the United States and China.
Shortly after the test launch, President Trump responded by criticizing the Chinese government for its failure to halt North Korea’s military progress. He tweeted:
I am very disappointed in China. Our foolish past leaders have allowed them to make hundreds of billions of dollars a year in trade, yet…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2017
…they do NOTHING for us with North Korea, just talk. We will no longer allow this to continue. China could easily solve this problem!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2017
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley indicated that the United States is “done talking about North Korea. China is aware they must act. She called on Japan and South Korea to “increase pressure” on the North Korean regime. Reuters has reported that the United States has been in talks with China to draft a U.N. Security Council resolution that would place more aggressive sanctions on the rogue state. However, the Chinese government made their own statement regarding the situation.
The Chinese indicated they oppose North Korea’s missile launch, but they also urged the United States to “avoid taking actions that could escalate tensions.” As well, they demanded the United States and South Korea discontinue their deployment of the THAAD missile defense system. THAAD is designed to protect South Korea against missile attacks from Pyongyang.
Monday in New York, at the United Nations China’s U.N. ambassador placed responsibility on resolving differences outside his own country and onto the U.S. and North Korea, respectively. Reuters reports China’s U.N. Ambassador Liu Jieyi told a news conference the United States and North Korea “hold the primary responsibility to keep things moving, to start moving in the right direction, not China.”
Under Kim Jong Un, North Korea has continued to build up its military despite sanctions and opposition from the west and China. Experts believe that the regime is rapidly getting closer to gaining the capability to strike the United States mainland with a nuclear weapon. A Fox News report indicated that the United States is ready to use military force against the Kim regime if necessary. General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy told Fox News that “we are ready to respond with rapid, lethal and overwhelming force at a time and place of our choosing.” He also stated: “North Korea remains the most urgent threat to regional stability.”
Although our military is prepared to strike North Korea, diplomacy still seems to be the primary course of action. The international community has been attempting to use peaceful means to stop North Korea’s further development of their weapons program — to no avail. It is hoped that a new round of sanctions on which Congress recently voted — as well as the proposed United Nations sanctions will finally be enough to curb Kim Jong Un’s nuclear ambitions. However, if history is any indicator, the sanctions will not stop North Korea’s progress.
Before he took office, President Trump stated that he would not allow Kim Jong Un to acquire weapons that could harm American citizens. Unfortunately, the North Korean regime has only continued to make more progress in achieving their military goals. The president has repeatedly called on the Chinese government to take action against Pyongyang, but they have seemed hesitant to make any sudden moves. As a result, NK has exploited this hesitancy and made themselves more of a threat.
It is a troubling thought, but a military confrontation seems more and more inevitable as Pyongyang continues to flout the international community. Since North Korea has the fifth largest army in the world, a war would be more than undesirable for all parties. It appears that the best hope for a peaceful resolution is China, but it doesn’t seem likely that they are willing to do what needs to be done. While China does not look favorably on the Kim government, they still want to protect their own interests — and this makes the military option even more complicated. How will China react if the United States decides to use military force to stop North Korea?
The United States and China are both at an impasse. China has been allied with North Korea since the 1950 Korean war. The People’s Republic needs North Korea because it provides a strategic geographic buffer against any potential invaders from the south. Additionally, if the North Korean command collapses, China will have to deal with the millions of refugees who would flood their borders. It views a unified Korea as a threat.
The United States’ issues with North Korea are multifaceted. The Kim dynasty has been responsible for some of the worst human rights abuses in the modern world. They maintain complete control over the populace by inflicting harsh punishments for any dissent. The government has also subjected its citizens to widespread starvation. Moreover, the United States believes a nuclear North Korea is a critical threat to national security.
Multiple U.S. presidents have unsuccessfully tried to prevent North Korea’s military progress. Both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton gave aid to Pyongyang in hopes that it would convince them to cease their pursuit of nuclear weapons. Obviously, that didn’t work. Kim Jong Il just used the money to continue the military’s research. George W. Bush attempted to facilitate reconciliation between South and North Korea. Barack Obama adopted the ill-fated “strategic patience” doctrine where he tried to use multilateral diplomacy to convince Pyongyang to stop its activities.
Now, as President Trump is more than halfway through the first year of his presidency, the situation has grown even more dangerous. Kim Jong Un appears to have no intention of complying with the wishes of the international community. China does not seem interested in pressuring the regime to cease its operations. The Trump administration is becoming more hawkish in their language towards North Korea. Neither President Trump nor Chinese President Xi Jinping seems willing to budge. Meanwhile, Kim Jong Un is steadily working towards gaining the means to threaten the lives of American citizens on the mainland. And the clock keeps ticking.
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