North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has always been known for his saber-rattling, but in the past week he may have reached a new extreme in his threats against his southern counterpart and the United States.
On March 13, he announced the 1958 Armistice with South Korea to be void and declared that his nation would be no longer be “restrained by the North-South declaration on non-aggression.” On March 27, the hotline, the one line of communication between the two nations, was shut off; three days later, Kim declared the two countries to be in a state of war.
North Korea has a nuclear arsenal, so its threats are being looked at seriously, even if they are commonplace and viewed as empty by both the South Koreans and the United States government. Kim announced on March 31 that his country’s nuclear weapons arsenal was going to be expanded, despite warnings from the U.S. government, as it is “the nation’s life,” according to the New York Times.
South Korea, having long been the target of northern threats, is determined to not be taken lightly. President Park Geun-hye warned Kim that a refusal to give up his nuclear weapons program in accordance with United Nations sanctions would be a threat to North Korea’s survival as it earns the ire of the rest of the world.
Unlike North Korea, South Korea is a constitutional republic and a friend of the West, not a dictatorship. With the United States on its side, South Korea seems hardly fazed by the newest threats facing them. Kim Jang-soo, director of national security for President Park, stated his belief that North Korea “may launch a provocation, such as missile launch,” around Wednesday, April 10, according to the New York Times. However, he also referred to this tactic as “headline strategy,” a quest to make news and ignite fear in the hearts of the South Koreans more so than to actually strike them down.
An actual nuclear strike by the North Koreans would earn them the wrath of the United States, whose nuclear arsenal is at least ten times bigger, according to an inventory compiled by the Federation of American Scientists. This disparity is the largest reason why few, if any, view the North Korean threat as a cause for legitimate fear for the lives of Americans. A nuclear assault on North Korea would have negative effects on the south in terms of damage and proximity to fallout.
North Korea has threatened the South and the West before, and will likely do so again as long as they have Kim or any of his people in power. For the U.S. or South Korea to overreact to the slightest and assault them would be playing right into their hand. For now, as always, the world must simply wait to see if the rhetoric will turn into action.