Military Strength and Expansion
North Korea boasts one of the most frighteningly powerful militaries in the world, estimated to be around 1.2 million strong. It is estimated that North Korea needed to spend over 25% of its GDP to maintain its military strength. Despite economic deprivation, North Korea has made great strides in expanding their military capacity, with advancements in the development of nuclear weapons, high altitude rockets and even unmanned aerial drones. Furthermore, North Korea possesses one of the largest chemical warfare programs in the world which is reported to have stockpiles of poisons and toxins far exceeding the amount necessary to threaten its neighbors.
The weapons capabilities of North Korea has been a cause of concern for many experts, as the Korean government has voiced their intentions to create missiles that could reach the US mainland. According to the US State Department, North Korea currently has the capability to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). The potential power of North Korea’s military has been likened to the fear of the Cold War and beyond, leaving many nations on their toes.
Grim Human Rights Situation
The North Korean government has also been criticized for its human rights record, as Amnesty International has declared the country’s record as “extremely poor and deeply rooted in the country’s political ideology”. In addition to the brutal and totalitarian rule of the government, it continues to commit egregious acts of human rights violations. Examples of these violations include arbitrary detainment, cruel punishments, and the strictly censored media.
Furthermore, detention camps continue to operate within North Korea, and those that do manage to escape out of the country, often speak about a grim reality of life under the rule of the Kim dynasty.
The highly coveted nuclear and rocket programs also take precedence over human development, as the majority of North Koreans lack access to food and jobs, as well as adequate housing and healthcare. As a result, the UN estimates that 6 million North Koreans – approximately a quarter of the population – are in need of food assistance.
Relationship with the US
The relationship between North Korea and the US is undoubtedly a strained one. The North Korean government has continued to express its antagonism towards the US, although the US has not inquired into attacking the country. Indeed, the US has shown a willingness to negotiate with the North Korean government, even offering a strategy towards denuclearization of the country.
Therefore, the likelihood of an attack by the US on North Korea is extremely low. Nonetheless, the North Korean government has continued to demonstrate its commitment towards developing its military capabilities – a move that is considered alarming by nations in the region and around the world.
The UN Security Council has continued to impose economic sanctions on the country, to address the country’s development of nuclear weapons and its human rights violations. The sanctions target trade, finance and the nation’s banking system, with the aim of depriving the North Korean government of resources used towards its military-industrial complex.
However, it is uncertain how effective the sanctions are, as many North Korean civilians experience little to no change in their daily lives. In addition, it is estimated that North Korea has continued to access international markets for its weapons and luxury items.
With the threat of North Korea’s military capability and the human rights abuses occurring in the country, it is understandable why many are concerned about the situation. While the US has not expressed an intention to attack the country, the perceived power of North Korea has raised alarm in the international community. Negotiations and UN sanctions remain the primary solutions to the situation, but they may not be effective in curbing the nation’s militaristic ambitions and human rights abuses.