Far East faces threats from North Korea

North Korea has loaded and fueled at least two mobile ballistic missiles on its eastern coast according to the South Korean news agency Yonhap and satellite imagery obtained by United States intelligence. South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se stated that the possibility of a missile launch by the North Korean government, headed by communist dictator Kim Jong-un, is “very high.”
Texas residents were startled to find out that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was aiming missiles at several U.S. cities. According to a war room map, Austin, Texas was among those targeted cities, which also included Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York according to CNN.
“Austin Texas is a very important city in America,” Governor Rick Perry said in an online interview with CBS. “Anytime you have a country that has access to nuclear weapons, you need to treat it as a very real threat.”
Aaron Marsales, a junior business management major stated, “It doesn’t really faze me at all, it’s Korea. I heard they did this like ten years ago too. I really don’t know what to think about it other than I think it’s a joke.”
Instructor for English for International Students at UTSA Bonnie Smith had a few words to say about the situation as well. “I think that North Korea is like a spoiled child wanting attention. We always give them money, and then the government always uses it on their ridiculous agenda,” stated Smith.
Professor Smith is also concerned about the affect such attacks will have on her international students. “The people I’m most concerned for are the South Koreans because I have South Korean students and they hate that their countrymen are not part of their lives, so just the division bothers them,” Smith said.
According to U.S. intelligence, the missiles currently situated on the east coast of North Korea are most likely Musudan missiles, with a 2,500 mile range. While it is believed that North Korea does not yet have the technology to create a nuclear warhead small enough to attach to a mobile missile, the Musudan missiles could still be highly explosive and cause severe damage to South Korea, Southeast Asia or Japan, all of which are within its firing range.
North Korea has yet to demonstrate the technological capability to successfully launch a missile with a range that could include Hawaii or the U.S. mainland. However, North Korea has recently stated that it will be reopening its Yongbyon nuclear reactor “without delay.”
According to White House officials, the Obama administration will continue to take the situation in North Korea very seriously and attempt to cool down rhetoric and pressures from all parties involved
While U.S. officials are attempting to avoid conflict, United States Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reported “We have every capacity to deal with any action North Korea will take, to protect this country and the interests of this country and our allies.”
The United States Navy is preparing to deploy a land-based missile defense system, titled Terminal High Altitude Defense System, to the U.S. territory of Guam in order to prepare against a possible medium range and highly explosive missile attack. American satellite and radar systems are also set on North Korea’s east coast in the event of a launch. South Korea has prepared missile defense forces equipped with a radar defense system to both of its coasts, while Japan’s missile defenses have been deployed in Tokyo. U.S. radars have the capability to detect a missile’s trajectory seconds after launch.
Admiral Samuel Locklear, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, stated that the U.S. would not want to shoot down missiles headed for open sea. In the case of a missile launch headed for a U.S. ally, interceptor missiles would attempt to shoot them down.
This is not the first time North Korea has threatened nuclear proliferation or the launch of ballistic missiles. North Korea has been practicing a tactic referred to as “brinkmanship” since 1991, with confirmed nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles tests in 2006, 2009 and most recently in February 2013. On previous occasions, North Korea threatened to produce nuclear weapons or attacks until the United States agreed to reduce economic sanctions against them, and provide economic aid and oil.
This tactic of brinkmanship was used frequently by Kim Jong-un’s late father and predecessor Kim Jong-il, and is believed to be a possible reason for North Korea’s recent actions. Kim Jong-un replaced his father in 2011, and has reiterated anti-American sentiment and that the development of nuclear weapons is a necessary defense against “American aggression.” In December 2012, North Korea successfully launched a satellite into orbit using a rocket, violating United Nations’ resolutions. In response, the U.N. imposed strict economic sanctions against North Korea which have been considered an act of war by North Korea-the claim behind their recent rhetoric and military threats.
North Korea’s history of threats lead U.S. officials and political scientists to question a North Korean attack.
According to Dr. Vaidya Gundlupet, an UTSA political science professor who specializes in international security, international relations, international institutions and South Asia, the reopening of this nuclear reactor could have extreme consequences.
Gundlupet is not convinced North Korea will launch, and if so, it would not target a United States ally or territory. “North Korea is a country with very little power against the U.S.…every time North Korea negotiates, it pushes the envelope to the extreme but then stops just short of that.”
Another possible reason behind North Korea’s recent actions, according to Dr. Thomas Bellows, who specializes in Asian studies at UTSA, could be that Kim Jong-un is “trying to show that he is as tough as his father and solidify internal rule.”
Both professors feel that North Korea’s actions are more about negotiation and internal politics. According to Dr. Bellows “a launch at Japan would cause significant retaliation and incinerate North Korea.”
North Korea’s most recent threat against South Korea happened on April 15, where Kim Jong-un threatened to bomb South Korea without warning, according to Reuters.