Presently U.S. – North Korea Relations
The current relationship between the United States and North Korea (DPRK) is extremely tense. Both countries have been unable to cooperate on a number of issues, especially those related to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. The two countries have not had an official diplomatic relationship since 1994. Since then, they have been engaged in numerous rounds of negotiations and diplomatic encounters, all of which have ultimately failed to resolve the issue.
The United States has been engaged in a variety of strategies with North Korea, most notably the “pressure-oriented approach” and the “engagement-oriented approach.” The former focuses on applying sanctions and diplomatic pressure, while the latter seeks diplomatic engagement with North Korean leaders to find a resolution to their nuclear program.
However, the latest United Nations Security Council Resolution 2397 has added a layer of complexity to the already delicate U.S. – North Korea relations. It imposes a ban on oil and gas exports to North Korea and requires cooperation between member countries in order for a successful implementation of the Resolution.
In a statement following the adoption of Resolution 2397, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley argued that “the United States will not accept a weakly enforced or inexistent implementation of this resolution”, highlighting the importance that the U.S. administration attaches to the furthering of their pressure campaign.
The U.S. has adopted other strategies as well, such as deploying strategic assets in the region and enhancing regional allied cooperation. For instance, the deployment of the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea in 2017 was deemed necessary by the U.S. government to counter North Korea’s nuclear threat.
Worst Case Scenario: What Happens if North Korea Attacks?
In the event that North Korea takes the drastic action of attacking the United States directly, a number of actions would be taken by the U.S. administration in response. The United States is one of the most powerful nations in the world and is capable of responding with a variety of defenses, both nuclear and conventional.
In the event of a North Korean attack, the U.S. would likely launch a retaliatory missile strike. The United States has a number of nuclear weapons in its arsenal and they can be used to launch a retaliatory strike if the situation warrants it. A nuclear strike by the United States would be devastating for North Korea and would likely cause the immediate collapse of the country.
The United States would also likely invoke its Mutual Defense Pacts and call upon its allies in the region, such as Japan and South Korea, to provide military and/or financial assistance in order to respond to the aggression. These countries are signatories to several agreements that allow them to offer military assistance to the United States in the event of a hostile act.
The United States is also part of the United Nations Security Council and it would be possible for the country to invoke resolutions that impose sanctions or take other measures against North Korea in response to an attack.
As a last resort, the United States could launch a ground invasion of North Korea, although this would carry tremendous risks, as North Korea has one of the largest standing armies in the world. A ground invasion would likely be a long and costly affair, and could result in significant civilian casualties and destruction for both countries.
What Other Options Would the U.S. Have?
Aside from military retaliation, the United States would likely explore other diplomatic options in order to resolve the situation. The United States could seek out the cooperation of other countries in the region, such as China and Russia, and implore them to take necessary diplomatic steps in order to deescalate the crisis.
The U.S. could also seek the support of the international community, by taking the issue to a United Nations Security Council meeting, for example. The U.S. could also seek to impose economic sanctions on North Korea as a punitive measure, much like the UN Resolution 2397 that was recently passed.
Finally, the U.S. could seek to engage in direct talks with North Korea in order to explore diplomatic solutions to the problem. This would require both sides to be willing to compromise and discuss the issue in good faith, which may not be likely given the current state of affairs.
What Would the Result be? Will the U.S. be Successful?
It is difficult to predict with any degree of certainty the outcome of a North Korean attack on the U.S., as such an event is rare in the international landscape of today. However, it is clear that the U.S. has the necessary weapons and strategies to respond to any attack by North Korea, and it is likely willing to do so.
It is also possible that a diplomatic solution can be reached if the U.S. is able to acquire the support of its allies and other countries in the region. Ultimately, if a North Korean attack on the United States did take place, the U.S. would have a number of options in order to respond and protect itself.
North Korean Motives Behind an Attack
It is worth noting that North Korea has a history of taking aggressive steps against its adversaries, such as the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan in 2010 and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island in 2011. It is likely that such behavior is intended to show its strength and demonstrate its power to the rest of the world.
North Korea is well aware of the consequences of a possible attack on the U.S., yet the regime may still choose to take the risk in order to strengthen its image abroad and prove its willingness to stand up against its enemies. In the event of a provocation from the North Korean side, the U.S. would need to be prepared to respond in an effective manner.
The Role of Other Countries in the Conflict
In any conflict between the U.S. and North Korea, it is likely that other countries in the region will be involved as well. South Korea, in particular, would be closely involved, as North Korea’s actions would have a significant impact on the South Korean economy and population. South Korea has called for diplomatic resolution to the tensions between the two nations, and has been working to maintain communication channels with North Korea.
Japan, too, would be closely involved in any conflict. Japan is a close ally of the United States, and would be expected to provide support and assistance in the event of a conflict. Japan has strengthened its military forces in anticipation of a potential conflict.
China, one of North Korea’s closest allies, would likely be the most involved in the event of an attack. China has traditionally sought to keep the peace between the United States and North Korea, but it would also seek to ensure that the North Korean regime does not collapse as a consequence of any potential conflict.
The Human Cost of Any Conflict
Finally, it is important to note that a potential conflict between the United States and North Korea would have an immense human cost. While the countries involved have the advanced military capabilities to inflict significant damage, it is the civilians, who would bear the brunt of any conflict. In the event of a war, millions of people could be killed or displaced, with devastating consequences for the region.
It is for this reason that the United States has sought to avoid any direct military action against North Korea and has focused instead on using diplomatic tools to resolve the crisis. The United States will likely continue to do so in order to prevent any further escalation of the situation.