Historical Context of North Korea
Understanding why North Korea may attack another nation, or which nation it may attack first, requires an understanding of the historical context in which North Korea exists. Following World War II, Korea was split into two states, the Soviet-backed North Korea, and the US-backed South Korea. Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, the two countries remained separated and hostile toward each other, including a brief bitter war in the early 1950s.
The current leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, is the son of Kim Jong Il, the country’s ruler from 1994 to 2011. Under these two leaders, North Korea has pursued a policy known as “songun” or “military-first,” where the country’s resources are prioritized towards the development and maintenance of its military forces. Economically, North Korea has remained isolated from much of the world, leading to economic hardship and a lack of access to certain essential products and technologies. This has led to the country’s continued development of nuclear weapons and has fostered a tense relationship with many of its neighboring countries, most notably South Korea and the United States.
Threats from North Korea
North Korea has a history of making threats against its neighbors and the world. In 2006 and 2009, North Korea tested its first nuclear weapons and has continued to conduct short-range missile tests in an attempt to expand the reach of its military capabilities. In 2013, North Korea restarted the Yongbyon nuclear facilities, and in 2016 conducted its fourth nuclear test that included both a nuclear and a hydrogen bomb.
In 2017, North Korea tested several intercontinental ballistic missiles that, if successful, could have potentially reach the United States. In response, the United Nations imposed sanctions on North Korea in an effort to restrict its access to foreign currencies and with the hopes of slowing down its military programs. In 2020, North Korea conducted its fifth nuclear test and has since taken steps to improve its long-range missile capabilities.
The threats from North Korea are a cause for concern for many around the world. North Korea’s escalated militarism has led the US and South Korea, Japan, and China to enter into military exercises and deploy more troops along the border.
Who Will North Korea Attack First?
Given North Korea’s increasing militarism and its history of threats against its neighbors, it is difficult to predict which nation it will choose to attack first. Some experts believe that North Korea is more likely to attack South Korea or Japan, due to their close proximity and historical differences. Others believe that the United States is a likely target, as North Korea has repeatedly called for the US to be “eradicated” due to its policies against North Korea.
North Korea’s escalating military capabilities have led some to suggest that countries such as the United States and China deploy missile defense systems, such as the US’ Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems, in order to deter potential attacks. While such systems could be effective, they could also increase tensions between North Korea and its neighbors, as North Korea could view these systems as a threat to its own security.
Though it is difficult to say which country will ultimately be targeted by North Korea, it is clear that countries around the world should remain vigilant. North Korea’s increasing pace of missile testing and its hostile rhetoric against the US suggest that any nation in the region could be a potential target.
US-North Korea Relations
In the past few years, the United States has attempted to negotiate with North Korea in an effort to reduce tensions and avoid a potential military conflict. Talks between the two nations have led to agreements concerning North Korea’s nuclear program, though these agreements were rarely enforced and were eventually abandoned. President Donald Trump attempted to improve relations with North Korea by meeting with Kim Jong Un in 2018, though the two leaders failed to reach a lasting agreement.
In 2021, President Joe Biden has promised to take a different approach to US-North Korea relations. Biden has promised direct talks with North Korea and has indicated that he will take a more aggressive stance against any actions undertaken by the country that he believes are a threat to the United States or its allies. It remains to be seen whether Biden’s hardline stance will lead to better relations between the US and North Korea or result in further conflict.
The Effects of North Korea’s Actions on South Korea
North Korea’s threats have had a direct effect on South Korea, which is responsible for defending itself against any potential attack by its northern neighbor. South Korea has increased the size of its military and implemented its own missile defense system, in addition to cooperating with the US and Japan to develop a joint missile defense system. South Korea has also continued to engage in diplomatic efforts with North Korea, in the hopes of reducing tensions.
The ongoing threats from North Korea have also caused economic difficulties for South Korea. Due to the unpredictability of North Korea’s actions and the potential for war, foreign investors are often hesitant to invest in the South Korean economy; a situation which has caused South Korea’s economic growth to slow. In addition, the two countries are still technically at war, and South Korea has been forced to spend billions of dollars each year to maintain a strong defense against an attack from North Korea.
Implications for Global Security
North Korea’s increasing militarism and rhetoric pose a threat to global security. North Korea’s frequent test launches of missiles have caused concern among world leaders and has increased the likelihood of war in the region. If North Korea were to launch a successful attack on any of its neighbors, it is likely that there would be global consequences, as other countries could be drawn into a conflict.
It is also possible that North Korea’s actions could destabilize the region and prompt other countries to increase their own military capabilities. This could lead to a further escalation of tensions and an increased risk that any conflict could quickly become a full-scale war. Furthermore, such a conflict could have the potential to spread outside the region, as many countries are now involved in maintaining peace and stability in the region.
North Korean Strategy to Attain International Recognition
North Korea has long sought international recognition and legitimacy, even as it continues to threaten other nations with its military capabilities. The country has often utilized brinksmanship tactics to try to gain recognition, such as launching missiles or testing nuclear weapons, in an attempt to force other nations to the negotiating table. However, such tactics rarely lead to successful negotiations and could further increase tensions in the region.
North Korea has also engaged in diplomacy with its neighbors and other nations in an effort to normalize relations and increase its international visibility. For example, North Korea has recently sought to improve relationships with China and Russia, two countries that are often seen as allies of the regime. This could lead to increased economic cooperation between North Korea and its neighbors, which could reduce regional tensions.
Additionally, North Korea has sought to make use of economic opportunities, such as the investment in its mineral resources, in an effort to generate revenue and allow the country to become more integrated in the global economy. Though it has had limited success in this area, North Korea has still sought to take advantage of such opportunities in the hopes of further legitimizing its standing on the world stage.
Assessment of North Korean Risk to International Community
North Korea’s continued military buildup and potential for aggression has led many world leaders to be concerned about the risk the country poses to international peace and security. North Korea has long been seen as a rogue state that cannot be trusted, and its recent actions have only heightened the fears of many that the country is becoming increasingly unstable and unpredictable.
The increasing militarism of North Korea has also led some to suggest that military action may be necessary in order to stop any potential aggression from the country. However, many experts believe that such action could have catastrophic consequences, potentially leading to a wider conflict in the region or even a wider global war. As such, many have called for a peaceful resolution to the North Korean situation, through dialogue and diplomacy.
The exact risk that North Korea poses to the international community is difficult to assess, as the country remains largely shrouded in secrecy. While it is possible that North Korea may indeed choose to attack another nation, it is difficult to predict which nation it will choose and when such an attack may occur. As such, it is important for the international community to continue to take steps to mitigate any potential threat from North Korea and to attempt to engage the country in meaningful dialogue in order to bring about a lasting peace.