For most, April 15 was a normal day. For North Koreans, however, it was the 105th Day of the Sun, their annual holiday celebrating the birth of their founder, Kim Il-Sung.
This year, the Day was accompanied with political tensions that threaten to break the current armistice. With this tension comes the necessity to inform students on the current political tensions between the world’s most secretive country and a country home to one of the world’s fastest growing economies.
With increasing pressure from China to behave and from Japan, South Korea, and America threats of military retaliation, North Korea’s responses bring to mind an increasing unpredictability. On the Day of the Sun, North Korean official Choe Ryong-Hae asserted that North Korea was “prepared to respond to an all-out war with an all-out war.” When Vice President Mike Pence visited the DMZ two days, he declared that America would “meet any use of conventional or nuclear weapons with an overwhelming and effective response.” Two days afterwards, North Korea retaliated, claiming Pyongyang would begin to hold weekly tests.
However, with a surprising turn of events, China, North Korea’s largest, and only, trading partner, praised the American statements in respect to North Korea and disapproved of how North Korea was handling itself. As this began to happen, North Korea changed its defensive policy on Thursday, instead warning of a “super-mighty preemptive strike” that could completely level Americans in South Korea and in the U.S.
Meanwhile, Japan is creating multiple plans that they would act upon should South and North Korea reignite their war; Japan is preparing to move refugees from both Koreas to Japan in order to ease the tension upon civilians.
The Korean conflict is not, however, constrained to Asia. On Thursday, cameras caught the movement of military tanks, trains, vehicles, and helicopters towards Vladivostok, a city just 11 miles from the North Korean Border. Just as this occurred, the United Nations Security Council spoke out against North Korea, urging the state to no longer conduct missile tests. Truly, the struggle between the Koreas is a global one, as powerful international bodies such as America, the United Nations, and Russia begin to converge upon the peninsula.
Despite this, South Korea has its own domestic problems, wrestling with the problem of its former leader’s impeachment and detention. Currently, the acting president supports America and South Korea’s decision to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, a decision that is creating tension not just within North Korea, but within China as well.
It is obvious that the tension within East Asia is an indication of increasing turmoil in the coming weeks and months. To make problems worse, President Donald Trump caused a blow to South Korean- American relations when he failed to address the USS Carl Vinson’s location and whereabouts; although he had promised it would go to the peninsula immediately, it went to the Australian army. The executive’s inconsistent relationship with the truth could spell trouble not just for America’s credibility, but their relations with South Korea as well.
On April 12, Trump declared that “We are sending an armada, very powerful. We have submarines, very powerful, far more powerful than the aircraft carrier… We have the best military people on Earth.”
However, the USS Carl Vinson was not headed to North Korea or even to the Korean peninsula. It was going to participate in exercises with the Australian navy, which would have been fine had it not been for the inconvenient fact that said exercises are being held in the Indian Ocean. The Carl Vinson is expected to finish military exercises immediately and head to the Korean Peninsula after the exercises. The South Korean media reacted mercilessly, pointing out the sheer incompetence that the mistake reflected.
To quote the Korea Herald, “Any sudden escalation in saber-rattling coupled with misleading statements could spawn a needless flare-up in tension and public anxiety.”
Students must understand that beyond of the jokes, North Korea has become a legitimately dangerous country, with its reach spilling over to the other Asian countries in its vicinity. Students in America cannot just expect the conflict to be impossible or laughable; it is time for the attitudes of those of us who have grown up brushing off North Korea’s empty threats to change. Gone are the days when we could make fun of the childish Kim Jong Un and his feeble attempts at militarizing. Making jokes about North Korea will only desensitize Americans to this geopolitical chaos.