Too afraid to ask: Diffusing North Korean tensions

    In an interview on Oct. 22 with Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo, President Donald Trump spoke about North Korea, China and the possibility of a U.S.-North Korea conflict.

    What happened prior to Trump’s interview with Fox?

    In response to North Korea’s sixth nuclear test on Sept. 3, the United Nations Security Council adopted UNSCR 2375 on Sept. 11, which increased sanctions to include oil exports, textile exports and overseas laborers.

    In a speech before the United Nations on Sept. 19, Donald Trump spoke about how the United States would respond to North Korean aggression.

    “If we are forced to defend ourselves or our allies we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea," Trump said. "Rocket man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.”

    In response to Trump’s comments on North Korea, Foreign Minister of North Korea Ri Yong-ho said that Trump is “a mentally deranged person full of megalomania.”

    After Trump’s speech before the United Nations, Kim Jong-un called Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard,” vowed to tame him with fire and insinuated that a more powerful weapons test, potentially a hydrogen bomb, is soon to come. In response, Trump lashed out at Kim Jong-un on Twitter.

    What happened in Trump’s Oct. 22 interview?

    During the interview, Trump commented on the United States’ relationship with North Korea, its alliance with China and its willingness to respond to a potential conflict with North Korea.

    Trump emphasized that the United States would be willing to take action against North Korea, adding, “You would be shocked to see how totally prepared we are if we need to be.” Though, he did not go into any specific policies.

    What is China’s role in the conflict with North Korea?

    As North Korea’s main ally and economic supplier, China holds significant leverage over North Korea.

    Despite previously criticizing China, saying that they are not doing enough to reign in North Korea, Trump called the U.S.’s relationship with China “exceptional,” even saying, “China's really helping us … with respect to North Korea – 93 percent of things going into North Korea come through China. China is big stuff."

    William Hurst, associate professor of political science, provided insight into China’s essential yet difficult relationship with North Korea, according to an article from WTTW Chicago News.

    “China’s greatest fear would be severe instability in North Korea or conflict on the Korean Peninsula,” Hurst said. “In order to prevent that, China feels a responsibility to make sure that the situation is as stable as possible.”

    Could a nuclear arms race happen?

    Many countries have expressed fears that a nuclear weapons race could ensue should the current hostile rhetoric and threat of nuclear warfare continue.

    Some analysts have viewed Kim Jong-un’s reply to Trump’s United Nations speech, in which he said that North Korea would consider "highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history" as an indicator that North Korea will further increase its weapons testing.

    In addition to the looming threat of North Korea’s nuclear program, the threat of U.S.-North Korean conflict is also heightened by both countries’ possession of nuclear weapons, North Korea’s non-nuclear arms and the militarization of the Korean peninsula.

    At the October conference, an event organized by the Foundation for Defense Democracies, CIA chief Mike Pompeo stressed the potential danger that North Korea poses in regards to nuclear proliferation.

    “It is the case that [Kim Jong-un, his engineers and his scientists] are close enough now in their capabilities that from a U.S. policy perspective, we ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving that objective,” Pompeo said.

    Could President Trump’s rhetoric provoke conflict with North Korea?

    On Sept. 23, Foreign Minister of North Korea Ri Yong-ho responded to Trump’s threat that he and Kim Jong-un wouldn't “be around much longer,” saying “it was the U.S who first declared war on our country.”

    Yong-ho also sent an ominous message regarding Trump’s rhetoric and the fate of U.S.-North Korean relations.

    "Now that Trump has insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of a war in history that he would destroy [North Korea], we will consider with seriousness the exercising of a corresponding level of hardline countermeasure" Kim said.

    Hillary Clinton has also expressed concern that Trump’s language may incite a nuclear arms race, according to an interview from CNN aired on Oct. 15.

    “We will now have an arms race, a nuclear arms race in East Asia," Clinton said. "We will have the Japanese who understandably are worried with missiles flying over them as the North Koreans have done that they can't count on America.”

    Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger spoke about the threat nuclear proliferation, according to The New York Times.

    “It cannot be that North Korea is the only Korean country in the world that has nuclear weapons, without the South Koreans trying to match it. Nor can it be that Japan will sit there,” Kissinger said. “We’re talking about nuclear proliferation."

    To see more visuals of North Korea's situation in Pyongyang, click here.


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