Introduction: What’s North Korea Doing Now?
North Korea has been engaging in activities that have grabbed the world’s attention ever since its dramatic entrance onto the world stage. Its militaristic nature, its human rights abuses, its negotiations and nuclear threats have alarmed the international community as it has provided a real sense of urgency to the contemporary world. In an effort to unearth what North Korea is currently doing, this article endeavors to provide an extensive analysis and impartial perspective of the nation’s recent activities.
The Nuclear Dimension
North Korea’s ongoing nuclear ambition has made headlines and raised eyebrows across the world. After a series of provocative nuclear tests between 2009 and 2013, many experts and officials suggested that the Hermit Kingdom could potentially possess more nuclear capability than originally assumed. This figure was recently confirmed by leaked intelligence documents which speculated that North Korea could possess anywhere from 20-60 nuclear weapons, a figure significantly higher than estimated.
It appears that North Korea’s nuclear arsenal isn’t the only thing that’s expanding; their nuclear sites have also seen major development too. As well as major upgrades to their main nuclear test sites, satellite imagery has identified a plethora of new nuclear scientific facilities and launch sites. Construction work on these sites has been impressive to say the least, proceeding faster than even experts’ expected.
North Korea’s increasingly hostile military posture has alarmed regional and global leaders. In recent months, there have been multiple reports of military exercises including large-scale military drills that have been described as “bold and provocative”. The nation’s military arsenal includes various rocket launchers, ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles as well as fighter jets.
The most recent military exercises were conducted in the Sea of Japan and included a display of surface-to-air and anti-ship missiles. North Korea tested its submarine-launched ballistic missiles in April 2020, firing four missiles into the Sea of Japan despite pleas from neighboring countries to refrain from provocative actions. North Korea reportedly stated that such exercises were necessary for its defense against foreign interferences.
Pursuit of Peaceful Diplomacy
Despite North Korea’s increasingly militaristic tone, officials from the Hermit Kingdom have claimed that the nation is open to peaceful diplomacy. In 2019, North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un reportedly stated that the nation is ready to engage in bilateral talks with the US.
In addition to dialogue with the US, North Korea is open to establishing relations with other nations in an effort to foster economic and diplomatic ties. The nation signed an agreement with South Korea in 2018 stating that they would cease all hostile military actions against each other. There have also been numerous attempts by the US to normalize its relations with the North.
The international community has adopted strict economic sanctions against North Korea in an attempt to curb its pursuit of nuclear capability. In 2017, the UN passed Resolution 2375 which banned the import of coal, iron and other key commodities from North Korea, as well as forbidding any nation from facilitating the export of North Korean labor.
These sanctions have taken their toll on North Korea’s economy, resulting in a significant decrease in their GDP and a rise in public suffering. In response, North Korea has threatened to retaliate if the sanctions continue.
Political Ties with China
One of the major players in the North Korean situation is China, North Korea’s closest ally. China is the nation’s biggest trading partner and the two countries have maintained close economic and political ties ever since the Korean War. Chinese officials have frequently been seen visiting North Korea in diplomatic missions and citizens of both countries have been actively travelling back and forth.
The Chinese government has declined to publicly criticize North Korea and have been reported to have shipped coal and other materials to the nation that are not sanctioned in the UN Resolution. China’s support has played a major role in propping up the North Korean regime and many experts suggest that the nation would not be able to survive economic sanctions without the Chinese government’s help.
Trade with Russia
Alongside China, Russia is another major supporter of North Korea. Russian citizens are able to travel visa-free to the nation, and many citizens and entrepreneurs engage in business activities. The two countries have numerous joint ventures in the energy sector, and some have speculated that this activity is used as a basis for further sanctions evasion.
Additionally, Russia has been supplying North Korea with various military equipment. Russian ships are suspected of engaging in illegal trade between the two nations, and in 2018 it was reported that Russia had supplied fighter jets and helicopters to North Korea.
North Korean Cyber Activities
The North Korean government has also been using cyber activities to generate revenue. The nation has been linked to multiple high-profile cyber-attacks, including the attack on Sony Pictures in 2014 and the WannaCry virus attack in 2017.
It is believed that the North Korean government is actively involved in financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges, using these funds to finance their operations. The nation’s cyber activities have not been limited to financial attacks; North Korea has also been linked to websites and social media accounts that are dedicated to their government’s propaganda and recruitment.
The international community has also provided economic aid to North Korea as part of an effort to engage the nation in peace talks and reduce its risk of financial collapse. Humanitarian organizations have been donating food, water, medical supplies and other essentials to the country, and many countries have been contributing to these aid efforts.
In addition to these efforts, some countries have also been providing development aid to the nation. South Korea, Japan and the US have all invested in various infrastructure projects in the nation. South Korea has provided aid to North Korea in an effort to build bridges between the two nations.
Impact on North Korea’s Neighbors
The recent activities undertaken by North Korea have had a direct impact on the nation’s neighbors. South Korea has condemned the nation’s military actions as provocative and a threat to regional peace. Japan has also voiced its disapproval, stating that the country has a duty to defend its citizens and its national security.
The US has also been affected by North Korea’s actions, and the nation has adopted a firm stance towards the Hermit Kingdom. The US has sanctioned numerous North Korean persons, companies and entities and the nation has declared a state of emergency to combat the growing threat of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.
Possibility of War
The current situation often leads many people to speculate as to the prospects of war with North Korea. With the nation’s military exercises, nuclear ambitions and economic sanctions, it is difficult to predict how this situation might unfold.
Many experts say that the chance of war is highly unlikely but caution that the situation could escalate if North Korea continues its provocative actions. The results of any such actions could prove catastrophic and would no doubt have a severe impact on the region as well as the world as a whole.
North Korean Refugees
The deteriorating situation in North Korea has led to an increasing number of people fleeing the nation. Human rights organizations have reported that the number of refugees has tripled since 2012, with many desperate people attempting to make their way to China and South Korea.
The Chinese government has cracked down on the number of refugees attempting to flee the nation, and have adopted a policy of repatriating any North Korean refugees they apprehend. Humanitarian organizations have condemned such action and urged the Chinese government to provide a safe haven for these individuals.
Conclusion of Chances for Peace
North Korea is a complex nation with a myriad of issues that affect not just itself but its neighbors and the world. Although the situation appears to be deteriorating, there are still plenty of opportunities for the international community to engage in meaningful dialogue and work towards a peaceful resolution.
The path towards peace will require serious commitment from all parties involved and a real desire to resolve the differences between North Korea, its neighbors and the rest of the world. If approached with open minds and goodwill, it may be possible to come to an agreement and create a more secure and peaceful region.