The rhetoric between leaders of The United States and North Korea escalated this week, when North Korea’s Pyongyang threatened Guam and President Trump threatened with “fire and fury” if the rogue state continued its nuclear tests and verbal threats. Despite United Nations sanctions (including support from China and Russia), North Korea has yet to soften its tone or threats. All military analysts agree we are on the precipice of disaster – unless something happens to avert war. There are four things you need to know about the current conflict.
1. Does North Korea have nuclear weapons?
The simple answer is yes. Worse, the Korean military has figured out how to miniaturize a weapon, meaning they can deliver a bomb to a distant target such as the U.S. mainland. The North has been building and testing missiles for years. They have conducted five nuclear tests, each signifying greater capability than was previously known.
2. What is the rest of the world doing?
The UN Security Council has adopted a resolution that imposes new sanctions. This is the eighth set of sanctions in the last 11 years. To date, sanctions have done nothing to divert the North from their intentions. And North Korea’s economy has somehow continued to expand and prosper despite these sanctions.
3. What has President Trump said about North Korea?
The president has called North Korean President Kim “a smart cookie.” He has said of their nuclear aspirations, “It won’t happen.” And on Tuesday, he threatened “fire and fury such as the world has never seen” if Pyongyang endangered, or even threatened the United States. Yesterday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tamped down the rhetoric a bit. He said, “I think Americans should sleep well at night, have no concerns about this particular rhetoric of the last few days.” But clearly, Mr. Trump stands ready to respond, and has been presented with multiple military plans of action.
4. What happens if war breaks out?
Any U.S.-led military action would be met with an aggressive response from the other side. Korea has threatened to send missiles to Hawaii and even the U.S. mainland. Clearly, South Korea, where thousands of U.S. soldiers are based, would be at great risk. Military analysts estimate that 30,000 civilians would be killed in a non-nuclear strike by North Korea on its southern neighbor. Should nuclear warheads be engaged, the number of lost lives would be counted in the millions. Is the U.S. mainland at risk? While the United States certainly has the capacity to shoot down any incoming missile, such a response has never been tested. Let us pray it never will be.