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The North Korean Nuclear Threat: Explained

North Korea Nuclear tests, Kim Jong Un waving -->

North Korea has been pursuing nuclear weapons program for decades now.

Despite having signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1985, North Korea conducted a secret nuclear weapons program that first came to limelight in 1993 when the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) accused it of NPT violations, North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003 and made the program public.

International efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation have not discouraged North Korea.

The North Korean regime has resisted all external pressure for pulling out of the program. Other than the NPT, long-term economic sanctions imposed on the country and repeated failure of multi-party talks (including the US, Japan, China, Russia and North and South Korea) have only fanned the flames.

2016 has seen a substantial increase in North Korean nuclear activity. This year North Korea has already conducted one successful test of a powerful hydrogen bomb and several tests of ballistic missiles with varying degrees of success, most recently on April 28th. An increase in nuclear threats from the regime has also placed its neighbours on high alert. This has brought North Korea and its dictator back to the attention of the international community.

The upturn in nuclear activity has been seen as autocratic leader Kim Jong-un’s attempt to assert himself after a few relatively quiet years since he took over from his father, Kim Jong-il. The world’s eyes are now back on this country, which may well have been the true intention of the recent escalation.

What brought North Korea in the news recently?

North Korea successfully launched an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Some experts state that it is powerful enough to reach Alaska, Hawaii and perhaps the U.S. Pacific Northwest. This has created a big security concern for not just the USA but also other nations. In addition, North Korea said that the ballistic missile would carry a large nuclear warhead. Now that North Korea is capable of attacking USA directly, USA’s attempts to rein in North Korea will become all the more difficult.  Presently the USA’s tie ups with South Korea and Japan is the only thing that is stopping North Korea from starting a war with the 2 Asian countries. But now with the rising threat from North Korea it is unlikely that USA will continue to provide protection to these countries.

What is on Trump’s mind?

Reacting to the test launch, Donald Trump vowed that he would confront North Korea “very strongly”. He also said that the U.S. was considering ‘severe things’ for North Korea. While the state media of North Korea declared the US was sitting on “the knife edge of life and death” as the threat for the nuclear war appeared, this shows how effective the launch had been.

 

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