Donhem Brown, JHU ’20
On August 6th, 1945, the first nuclear bomb ever detonated in a war setting landed on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, the last landed on Nagasaki. These weapons delivered an explosive yield of about 15 kilotons of TNT each, while some modern day nuclear weapons have the potential to deliver an explosive yield of about 50 megatons of TNT, or over 3,000 times the explosive yield.
Over the past several years, with escalating tensions these past couple weeks, the North Korean regime has insisted on developing their nuclear arsenal, refusing to be deterred by sanctions that the United Nations have imposed on them. The regime now threatens to use the full brunt of their nuclear potential if they feel they are at all threatened. Many people tend to paint the issue as “The U.S. vs North Korea,” when in reality the U.S. has relatively little to fear from North Korea; however, the Japanese and South Korean allies of the U.S. have quite a bit to fear.
Civilians in Japan already know firsthand the destructive capabilities of nuclear weapons; some citizens, who survived the first two blasts, are still alive today. While North Korea may not have the strongest nuclear arsenal, according to seismographs from several different countries, it is confirmed that one of North Korea’s more recent H-bomb detonations can deliver an explosive yield of about 100 kilotons of TNT, or 6.3 times the yield of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. As North Korea continues to fire missiles over Japan, leaving the citizens of Japan in panic, we collectively have to ask ourselves, how much is enough? When do we recognize that acts as such are intolerable? If the U.S. flew a plane over Russia without the Russian permission, that could be considered an act of war. So why are we not considering North Korea firing literal missiles over Japan as such?
After spending the past several days watching North Korean propaganda as well as watching interviews from North Korean defectors (See first link at bottom), it is fairly clear—to me—that the North Korean regime has very little concern for the sovereignty of other nations, not to mention the prosperity of its own citizens; many die from starvation in order to fund Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear spending. Perhaps Kim feels his regime has little to offer other nations, so developing his nuclear arsenal gains him some leverage to preserve his dynasty. Kim knows that once North Korean citizens realize that he is not divine—that he has oppressed them in order to live a lavish life—the resentment that his citizens now harbor for Americans may turn towards their “dear leader.”
Many people criticize president Trump for “refusing to be diplomatic” with North Korea. In his most recent “Rocket Man” speech (See second link at bottom), the president said he would destroy North Korea if they were to attack the U.S. or any of its allies. However, given the recent failures of diplomacy, this promise to defend against what would represent a terrorist attack is perfectly reasonable. No nation, not even China, can be diplomatic with North Korea while they are armed with nuclear weapons.
According to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, “it was absolutely not a lack of dialogue that gave rise to this situation” and “[the gravity of this threat] is indisputably a matter of urgency.” Kim Jong-Un does not want North Korea to be assimilated with the rest of the world, because he wants to remain a “god” in the eyes of his people and, despite having no sensible reason to believe he can destroy the U.S., he will continue to make threats to. Of course, no nation wants innocent lives to be lost, whether they are American, South Korean, Japanese, or North Korean, but this really is dependent on Kim Jong-Un.
In light of such waiting and seeing, as of Thursday September 21, 2017, President Trump has signed an executive order that essentially forbids the U.S. to do business with North Korea or any nation that does do business with North Korea. To the surprise of many, even Xi Jinping—the current Chinese president and North Korea’s historical ally—has suspended financial transactions with North Korea until they’ve denuclearized. This goes to show that other nations do recognize how unhinged and inhumane the current North Korean regime has become.