By Caroline Mathews, International News Writer
North Korea has amped up the tensions on the Korean Peninsula after the country said it successfully conducted a hydrogen bomb test on Sunday, September 3. Once believed to only be a regional concern, Kim Jong-Un’s nation has officially graduated from a regional concern into a “global threat,” according the head of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), Yukiya Amano.
North Korea has been a wildcard in the nuclear weapon game since the 1960’s, when they expressed their interest in the devices by establishing a large-scale atomic energy complex in Yongbyon with the Soviet Union’s assistance. In 1985, the U.S. gained intelligence of a secret nuclear reactor being built in Pyongyang; the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea refused to sign the safeguards agreements given by the IAEA—an obligation put forth by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). However, in 1991, North and South Korea sign on an agreement for Reconciliation, Non-Aggression, Exchanges and Cooperation and the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and in 1992, DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) announced their compliance to the safeguards agreements. These brief moments of compliance and joint efforts were unfortunately short-lived: in 1993, denuclearization slowed down and North Korea withdrew from the NPT. The U.S. played a role in this conflict of global interest by initially committing to improve the North-South Dialogue, known as the Agreed Framework, and by loosening sanction on North Korea when it agreed to freeze the nuclear program. Nonetheless, 2006 marked the first nuclear test for DPRK.
Over the summer, North Korea has launched both successful and unsuccessful missile tests that appear to show an alarming increase in sophistication in the DPRK’s program. While Sunday’s test has not been confirmed to have been caused by a hydrogen bomb as North Korea has claimed, Amano maintains, in no uncertain terms that, “North Korea is making significant process.”
In August, North Korea announced the consideration of attacking the U.S. territory of Guam—which contains a Naval base, Coast Guard station, and an Air Force base—following warnings from President Donald Trump that any threat to the United States will be “met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.” President Trump has also expressed frustration with the People’s Republic of China, North Korea’s only major diplomatic and economic ally, for not doing more in the condemnation of the nuclear actions. Currently, China has publicly expressed the desire to bring North Korea back to the negotiation table that ended in a stalemate in 2009. Though, North Korea has consistently ignored China’s urges of denuclearization.
On Wednesday, the United States met with members of the UN’s Security Council—including China as a permanent member—to draft a resolution, which includes the mandatory cut-off of all oil and refined petroleum products to North Korea by all countries, as well as the ability to board and inspect all North Korean ships using “all necessary measures,” in hopes of pressing North Korea to the negotiation table. However, these actions will only prove fruitful if North Korea is squeezed enough to stop testing and disarm. How to handle a nuclear missile attack is still a crucial question for the Trump Administration.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, September 12th print edition.
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