Tensions between North and South Korea have steadily escalated in past weeks due to threats from North Korean President Kim Jong-Un to attack both South Korea and its ally, the United States, whom it has viewed as evil since it helped the South win the Korean War in the 1950s. Because North Korea has made promises to take military action against the South or the U.S. before and no actions were indeed taken, there has been a tendency to not take the intimidation seriously. Despite North Korea’s empty rhetoric in the past the Obama administration must avoid downplaying North Korea’s threats
Tensions between Pyongyang and Seoul have increasingly escalated due to the North’s undertaking of yet another banned nuclear test in February. As tensions increased, on March 30th the North announced that it had entered a “state of war” towards their Southern counterparts. This is of concern to the United States for a few reasons. First, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter recently stated that the United States is committed to providing military support to Seoul in case of aggression from the North. This means that if war indeed breaks out between the two Koreas and even if there are no direct attacks to the U.S., it will become involved – and in a manner yet unknown.
Another reason why the US should be concerned, and probably the most important one, is that North Korea, a country with an impoverished population and reports of severe human rights violations, including the presence of labor camps – much like the Soviet Gulags, where anyone seen as non-supportive of the current regime is sent to work in death camps – in a nation led by a dictator that has continued a family tradition to brainwash and force its citizens to worship him like a god, possesses nuclear weapons. Although this does not necessarily mean that there could be nuclear attacks against the US, especially considering the past failures in missile launches by Pyongyang, there is a possibility of nuclear attacks on South Korean territory. Not only would this mean a serious escalation of war that cannot be overstated, it would require a severe response from President Barack Obama’s administration.
The intimidation from the North has been raised to unprecedented levels, and while the Obama administration has said that it is taking the bellicose pressure of the North Korean government seriously, there still seems to be a sense of “yes we are taking it seriously, but…” within the American officials’ responses, including White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s statement that there seems to be a “disconnect between rhetoric and action”. To underestimate a ruler who is more preoccupied with declaring war than fixing his own nation and who has a nuclear arsenal at his disposal would be a grave mistake, one the US cannot afford to make.