A crucial component of Donald Trump’s discussions with Chinese President Xi last week was the future of North Korean nuclear proliferation. The North Korean military has been conducting nuclear tests for years now, and they have recently tested ballistic missiles in the region surrounding the Korean Peninsula, worrying South Korean and Japanese officials. In response to increased aggression, the U.S. military sent a US Navy Carrier Strike Group to the region, ensuring that destroyers, cruisers, and a carrier air wing will be ready to strike North Korea should the global super-villain act in such a way as to warrant a preemptive strike. North Korean officials responded to the U.S. decision, pledging to retaliate in extreme terms. "We will make the US fully accountable for the catastrophic consequences that may be brought about by its high-handed and outrageous acts."
The ante has since been upped, as a war of words has broken out between Trump and North Korean military officials. Trump tweeted yesterday that he would seek out the help of the Chinese in addressing increased North Korean aggression but would not be opposed to acting alone. “I have great confidence that China will properly deal with North Korea. If they are unable to do so, the U.S., with its allies, will! U.S.A.” This, of course, worried the North Korean government that U.S. unilateral action was on the horizon, and they responded by telling reporters that they were preparing a "a big and important event" for the end of this week, which U.S. analysts suspect is either another nuclear test or a missile launch.
North Korean leaders have indicated that they are merely responding to increased verbal aggression from Trump, particularly on Twitter. “Trump is always making provocations with his aggressive words,” said North Korea’s vice foreign minister. “So that’s why. It’s not the DPRK but the U.S. and Trump that makes trouble.” That official went on to say that North Korea was not only ready to strike but was even willing to do so. “We’ve got a powerful nuclear deterrent already in our hands, and we certainly will not keep our arms crossed in the face of a U.S. preemptive strike.”
One expert in Asian foreign policy describes the heightened tension as unprecedented. “We always knew all these options were there, but no one was bold enough to go down that path. It’s a new approach.” Analysts in China have also discussed the fact that Obama’s administration was highly calculated in its approach to dealing with North Korea and that Trump appears to be operating in a far less organized and systematic way. “Trump is also willing to show he is different. Bombing Syria helps him to show that.”
While we do not yet know what this “big and important” event will be, we do know that U.S.-North Korea relations have never been at a lower point, and the possibility of a major conflict in the region that could potentially develop into nuclear tactics is not as far-fetched as we once suspected.
What do you think will happen between the U.S. and its Eastern foe?