Is Nuclear War on the Horizon?

North Korea is a small Communist country, bordered by South Korea on the Korean peninsula, Russia and China. It was formed in 1945 after the end of World War II, when Korea was divided into two countries that formed separate governments in 1948. The U.N has published multiple reports on the “unparalleled” human rights violations that the dictatorship of North Korea has committed. Tourism is restricted, and if a tourist steps out of line they could be arrested and imprisoned for years in the reclusive state. Citizens who have committed political crimes or are related to those who commit such crimes have described the horrors that political work camps perpetrate, from a woman who was forced to drown her own baby because it cried too much to people being so starved that they had to eat grass. And now, Kim Jong Un, the fourth North Korean dictator or, as his people call him, “Supreme Leader,”  since the nation was founded, is boasting that his country has successfully conducted several nuclear tests and has the capacity to bomb targets from Seoul to the U.S.

Kim Jong Un ordered his country to be ready to use its nuclear weapons at any time and ordered the military to be in “pre-emptive attack” mode in the face of growing threats from its enemies, according to state media agency KCNA (Korean Central News Agency). Whenever the U.S and South Korea conduct military exercises off the coast of the Korean peninsula, which are strongly disliked and threatened by the North, North Korea tends to conduct more tests, shoot more projectiles into the ocean, and make more threats that most experts consider empty. According to many nuclear experts, North Korea does not have the nuclear capacity to bomb the mainland U.S.

Kim criticized South Korean President Park Geun-hye in his first direct published mention of her by name for acting “in league with the U.S. scoundrels,” adding that “her hysteria will precipitate only her ruin in the long run,” KCNA said.

The two Koreas have had sour relations in the past. After the Korean War, many family members were split up between the two Koreas and reunion of these families has remained a diplomatic goal.

Competition between the two countries has led to advanced technological capacities. For example, after the metro in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang was built, Seoul built one as well. This competition has gone both ways, with conflicts over sea borders, missiles, and the demilitarized zone separating the Koreas. Each Korea has helped to create the current hostility, with North Korea obviously playing a bigger role with nuclear threats, missile launches, and occasional sabotage of South Korean ships or killing of South Korean soldiers in the DMZ. However, South Korea has also retaliated occasionally, although while having a more diplomatic goal.

Beijing has banned imports of gold, coal, iron ore and rare earths from Pyongyang, in line with UN sanctions on North Korea. The world’s second-biggest economy will also stop selling jet fuel and other oil products used to make rocket fuel to its neighbor.

In March, the UN Security Council unanimously expanded sanctions against North Korea after Pyongyang made a fourth nuclear test and launched a long-range rocket.

Despite the icy relations between the two Koreas and ongoing incendiary acts, many experts think it is unlikely that North Korea could strike Seoul or the mainland U.S. But North Korea is extremely unpredictable and notoriously difficult to negotiate with, so nothing is certain when it comes to North Korea and their unknown nuclear arsenal.