North claimed authority over the entire Korean Peninsula,


North Korea is a confidentially
run communist state that chooses to be isolated from a majority of the world.

In recent years, leader Kim Jong Un’s hostile nuclear program has undoubtedly posed
a major threat to keeping stability amongst the international community. In
order to have a comprehension of North Korea’s adversative relations with the
international community, creating nuclear missile threats, one must have a
better understanding of the country’s creation and its brutal history. North
Korea is an Asian country with a population of approaching 26 million people.

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More properly known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK, it
was founded when the United States and the Soviet Union split control of the
peninsula between South and North Korea following World War II in 1948.

From a historical
viewpoint the country’s aggressive relations policy could date back to 1910.

During this time, Japan annexed the Korean Peninsula after the occupation five
years earlier following the Russo-Japanese War. Over the next 35-year period of
colonial rule, the country significantly industrialized, but many Koreans
suffered brutal repression from the Japanese military. After Japan’s defeat in
1945, the United States and the Soviet
Union divided the peninsula into two zones of political influence
along the 38th parallel. In 1948, the pro-democracy and strongly Republic of
Korea, or South Korea, was established in Seoul with a strongly anti-communist
leader Syngman Rhee. While this democratic government was being instituted in
South Korea, to the north, the industrial Pyongyang had contrasting style of
government. The Soviet Union installed the vigorous young communist guerrilla,
Kim Il Sung, who became the first premier of North Korea and ruled with an iron
fist. Because both formidable leaders claimed authority over the entire Korean
Peninsula, tensions hit a boiling point. In 1950, with the support of the USSR
and communist China, North Korean forces invaded South Korea, beginning
the Korean
War. South Korea was supported by the United States, who provided around
340,000 troops to fight against the invasion. After three years of ruthless
fighting and over two and half million of both military and civilian
casualties, North and South Korea mutually agreed to sign an armistice in 1953.

The agreement left the borders of North and South Korea basically the same as
the pre-war borders, with a demilitarized zone along the 38th parallel. Yet, a
formal peace treaty was never signed. Following the war, Kim Il Sung shaped North
Korea according to the nationalist ideology of “Juche”, which translates to
“self-reliance”. The state assumed very stringent control over the economy,
collectivized agriculture and asserted ownership over all private property. Years
later, the termination of the Soviet Union significantly hurt North Korea’s
economy and left the communist regime with China as its only remaining ally. In
1994, Kim I Sung died and was succeeded by his son, Kim Jong Il.

North Korea’s economic problems slightly recovered due to improved relations
with South Korea, which adopted a “sunshine policy” of unconditional aid
towards its northern neighbor in the early 2000s. Around the same time, North
Korea came closer than ever before to establishing peace with the United
States, hosting U.S. Secretary of in Pyongyang in 2000. However, unfortunately
relations between the North Korea and democracies began to fade because of
North Korea’s aggressive relentless desire to become a nuclear power. Despite
King Jong Il’s pledge to follow the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),
there were reports at the beginning of the twenty first century that he
secretly declared that to have underground nuclear facilities that conducted
research into the production of highly enriched uranium. As the years went on,
the situation worsened. By 2003, North Korea withdrew from the NPT. As of 2006,
the North Korean government announced it had completed the conduction of their
first underground nuclear test. During the next five years tensions increased,
but in December of 2011 Kim Jong Il passed away. His son, the then-27-year-old Kim Jong Un,
was chosen as the Supreme Leader. With an extremely inflated ego and thirst for
power, Kim Jong Un took what ever necessary to consolidate power, like ordering
the execution of anyone who stood in his way (his own uncle as an example). With
a newly hostile government also continued to work on their nuclear arsenal.

This made relations with the West exponentially decline.

In 2013, tensions
reached an all time high. North Korea conducted a third nuclear test, which
resulted in trade and travel sanctions from the UN Security Council. China, North
Korea’s only major ally and main trading partner, formally protested, but were
unsuccessful in lifting the sanctions. In terms of
today, the regime claims it detonated a hydrogen bomb, a device much more
powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World
War II. Pyongyang successfully conducted its first
two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July. The launches triggered
international alarm and condemnation. The North was able to
purchase much of its initial nuclear technology from one of the founders of
Pakistan’s nuclear program and bought centrifuges to enrich uranium from Libya.

Those blasts, which began in 2006, have
only gotten stronger over the past decade as the North hones
its weapons program. The explosive power the purported H-bomb is adjustable from tens of kilotons to hundreds of
kilotons, according to a North Korean report cited by The New York Times.

Alongside nuclear development, North Korea has undertaken an active and at
times successful campaign to launch ballistic missiles, with an ultimate goal
of crafting an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of delivering a
nuclear warhead to U.S. soil. The Musudan, another North Korean ballistic missile, is
thought to be capable of reaching the U.S. territory of Guam. In May of 2016,
U.S. and South Korean intelligence officials announced the North has the ability to attach a small nuclear warhead on top
of missiles capable of reaching much of South Korea and
Japan. Experts have varied greatly in the past couple of months about
North Korea’s ability to strike the U.S. Kim personally oversees the test
launches of several ballistic missiles. While the tests are meant to fine-tune
the North Korean arsenal, they also serve a political purpose of power. Several
of the recent tests have been timed to coincide with important strategic
moments for the region. On July 3rd this year there missile test ?
Pyongyang’s 11th this year ? was launched on the eve of U.S. Independence Day,
and days before the G-20 summit in Europe. Kim dubbed it “a gift for the American bastards.” Three
weeks later, the July 28 test came a day after the North Korean holiday “Day of
Victory,” which marks the 1953 ceasefire in the Korean War.

Pyongyang is flexing muscles that experts say
are getting bigger. North Korea’s nuclear
aspirations, experts say, hinge on Kim’s desire to retain control of the
isolated nation.  “Above all else, North Korea’s nuclear program
is about security,” John Delury, a professor at Yonsei University in
Seoul, told the BBC last September. Under Obama,
the United States tread carefully and refrained from any direct action against
Kim’s regime. As a member of the United Nations Security Council, the
U.S. helped increase sanctions against North Korea following its September
2016 nuclear test. Despite condemnation from the U.N. and the West, Kim has
shown no willingness to halt his country’s weapons program.

China could play a significant role in motivating Pyongyang to
reverse course. The country has continued to trade with North Korea, and
Chinese companies provide up to 40 percent of the foreign currency the North
uses to trade internationally. Direct action presents major difficulties as the
South Korean capital, Seoul, lies just 35 miles from the North’s border and
within easy striking distance of the country’s non-nuclear artillery. It’s also
unclear whether strikes could effectively target the North’s program, as
infrastructure is spread across the country and in some cases lies underground. 

The U.S. reportedly was engaged in more covert
operations. Sanger and his colleague William Broad reported last March that the
Obama administration had been working to sabotage North Korea’s missile program for years with
cyber operations. Such initiatives, the pair wrote, may have derailed
components inside the missiles either before or
shortly after they were launched.

In
the longer term of dealing with North Korea, there are three serious options
that the Trump administration can take: stay militarily firm, withdraw and
return home, or seek reunification on our terms. Nothing the North Koreans can
do will hurt us directly, without imperiling their own survival. So, just barricade
off the North to prevent nuclear smuggling, improve our own missile defenses,
and work to stabilize the tensions. Let North Korea continue to struggle, while
they are isolated and poor. Time favors the United States. Kim Jung-Un will
never know when we might develop some super-weapon or key intelligence enablers
that could strip away his security and secrecy, rendering him and his regime
vulnerable in a way it currently isn’t. We
need a long-term strategy to stabilize and reduce tension on the Korean
Peninsula – and we should resist the urge to seek an immediate solution,
whether through bluster or economic destruction of the North.

The one new
wrinkle appears to be that the Administration will seek to forcefully hold China
responsible for North Korean provocations. Some senior U.S. officials are
threatening to severely penalize any Chinese banks doing business with North
Korea and to imitate the kinds of economic approaches and international
coalitions successfully brought to bear on Iran under the Obama Administration.

Although Beijing continues its calls for regional negotiations, the presidential
team should correctly counter that two decades of multi­lateral diplomacy have
failed to contain the North. It is arguable that China must do more to keep Kim
Jong-Un underfoot or at least at heel.

But Chinese
assertiveness, North Korean provocations, Japanese anxieties and South Korean
political turmoil are swirling dangerously across Northeast Asia. Normally,
uneasiness there would prompt key Asian players to look to the U.S. for
steadiness.

Yet a more
dominant Chinese role in Korea carries with it other risks. American leadership
is still seen as vital to the stability and prosperity of the entire region,
the cockpit of the global economy. This is why even with lousy options, all the
options look better with the U.S. deeply engaged in the dangerously evolving
Korean equation.

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