🕑 3 min
By Leo Paggen
In the past few weeks, North Korea has engaged in activities that upped the tension between it and a few other nations, particularly South Korea. So what exactly did North Korea do that raised tensions with the world so much?
1. Brief Overview of the Current Events
Last month, an unannounced intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) flew over the Japanese island before landing in the ocean, four thousand and five hundred kilometers away from where it was launched: North Korea. This prompted the Japanese government to order its citizens to seek shelter immediately following the arrival of the missile over Japanese territory. North Korea has also reportedly fired hundreds of artillery shells into the military buffer zone previously set up in 2018 by both nations of the Korean peninsula in an effort to maintain peace. A North Korean ship also crossed the two countries maritime border, and a North Korean missile landed the closest ever to South Korean territory. Seoul has responded to the events, the BBC says, calling it an “unacceptable breach of its territory” and by issuing warning shots fired by fighter jets, which landed just north of the Northern Limit Line (NLL).
2. History of Korea
Though the two countries have been separated for over seven decades, there was a time when this was not the case. The territory was ruled over by dynasties until the first half of the twentieth century, when it was then controlled by Japan during the war between Japan and Russia. In 1945, right after the second World War, the country was divided into two parts, of which the northern component would go to Russia, and the south part to the United States. Not long after, the Soviet-controlled part of the peninsula would see a communist regime emerge, and the US-controlled south part would become anti-communist. The growing divide between the two parts of Korea would lead to the north ultimately refusing to participate in a 1948 vote held by the United States to let the Koreans determine the future of their country, according to History.
The South, led by Syngman Rhee formed its government in Seoul, and the North responded by forming its own government in Pyongyang, led by the infamous Kim Il Sung, grandfather of now Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) “Supreme Leader”, Kim Jong-Un. Soon after followed the Korean War, which claimed the lives of over one and a half million civilians and soldiers alike between 1950 and 1953. The Korean War has never officially ended, as no peace treaty was ever signed between the North and the South.
3. Potential Justifications of the Actions of North Korea
In an article from the BBC, North Korea states that their actions were a response to the military drills currently led by South Korea and the United States of America, drills which it calls “aggressive and provocative”. The drills are called “Vigilant Storm” and consist of American and South Korean warplanes conducting mock attacks all day long. The planes are stationed on an American aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, which was itself stationed near the coast of the Korean Peninsula.
Though this may be a possible rationale for the missile launches North Korea has been conducting, another potential reason behind the movement is that North Korea wants to show the developed world its latest technology. It would not be the first time Kim Jong-Un wants to show the world his nation has dangerous technology, as it has already conducted six nuclear weapons tests, which have been detected by other countries.
4. Should We Worry About Kim Jong-Un’s Actions?
According to the BBC, Kim Jong-Un has declared North Korea as being a “nuclear state”. The same source also reports that both the United States and the South Korean governments are both expecting the seventh test of a nuclear weapon by North Korea. The country has also fired the most missiles it ever had done previously this year, a statistic which doesn’t seem likely to slow down in the very near future.
The type of missile North Korea fired over Japan is suspected to be capable of traveling far enough that it could reach the US island of Guam. Both the firing of the missile that landed south of the NLL and the one that flew over Japan could very well be actual simulations of what North Korea is capable of attacking rather than a simple warning shot. Therefore given the alleged warnings the DPRK has expressed concerning the joint US – South Korean military drills, Kim Jong-Un’s actions and threats should be taken seriously.
Following an announcement of the DPRK stating that denuclearization is off the table for North Korea, Kim Jong-Un has fired a record number of missiles last month in an attempt to stop the military drills between the US and South Korea. North Korea’s “Supreme Leader” breached South Korea’s territory with both missiles and a merchant ship which crossed the maritime border between both countries. The North Korean leader is also expected to lead a seventh nuclear weapon testing after warning and showing the world that it has the technology to engineer weapons capable of traveling thousands of kilometers.
Kim Jong-Un’s actions are provocative and concerning, but there is no reason for him to go to war with South Korea, as the latter has the United States as an ally. South Korea and the United States both condemned Kim Jong-Un’s actions and the military drill was led to respond to any eventual threat North Korea might pose to South Korea, so there is little reason to think the situation will escalate much further.
Sources: Reuters, CNN, BBC, Yonhap News Agency, History
Written by Leo Paggen