Tensions on the Korean peninsula are escalating again. On Sunday, August 20, 2017, Kim Jong Un and North Korea reminded the United States that they still have the capability to target the United States, threatening that Guam, Hawaii, and the continental United States cannot “dodge the merciless strike.”
This latest round of threats was published in the official North Korean government newspaper Rodung Sinmun, and comes just a day before the start of annual joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea. The Ulchi Freedom Guardian Military exercises are a 10-day military drill between the two allies and are due to start on Monday, despite the angry rhetoric coming from the north.
North Korea sees the joint military exercise — which occurs every year — as provocative. To Pyongyang, they are a practice run for the United States and South Korea’s eventual invasion of North Korea.
Rodung Sinmun had harsh words about the military exercises, saying, “The Trump group’s declaration of the reckless nuclear war exercises against the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]… is a reckless behavior driving the situation into the uncontrollable phase of a nuclear war.”
The official North Korean newspaper went on to describe North Korea as the strongest possessor or nuclear capable intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that are capable of striking the United States from anywhere. North Korea emphasized that they are ready for any aggression from the south.
“The Korean People’s Army is keeping a high alert, fully ready to contain the enemies. It will take resolute steps the moment even a slight sign of the preventive war is spotted.”
A History of Escalation Between North Korea and Donald Trump
This war of words between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump has been ongoing since the beginning of Trump’s presidency. Things appeared to be heading for a rapid head last week when North Korea said that it had finished a plan to attack Guam. Kim Jong Un said that North Korea was “carefully examining the operational plan for making an enveloping fire at the areas around Guam.”
In response, President Trump responded with bellicose rhetoric, telling reporters in New Jersey that any aggression from North Korea would be “met with fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
Guam, located in the South Pacific, is a territory of the United States and home to a significant military presence. The military base at Guam serves as a forward operating base and a stockpile for the United States military. Located only 3500 km from North Korea, Guam is a significantly strategic location for staging material and intelligence gathering.
South Korea and China’s Reaction to North Korean Threats
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has made the promise to South Korea that there will never again be a war on the Korean Peninsula. Moon has repeatedly said that the United States and South Korea are in firm agreement on their policies regarding Pyongyang and North Korea.
For his part, President Trump has told South Korea that they would be included in any military decisions made by the United States about North Korea.
China is continuing its urging to both the United States and North Korea to stop threatening each other and to cease provocative activities. They want North Korea to cease missile testing and for the United States to put an end to the military drills this week.
A Chinese newspaper published an editorial with the opinion that the upcoming drills will only serve to provoke North Korea into making a more radical response. They also said that if Moon and South Korea were serious about not wanting a war, they would attempt to stop the military exercise.
[Featured Image by South Korean Defense Ministry/AP Images]