For decades, North Korea has projected hostility toward the United States, but their aggression has escalated to a new level in 2017. Highlights include:
- June 13 – Otto Warmier, an America college student who was tortured and detained in North Korea for 17 months, was returned to the U.S. severely brain damaged and in a vegetative state. He died days later.
- July 4 – North Korea claimed to have successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that could “reach anywhere in the world.”
- July 25 – North Korea threatened a nuclear strike on “the heart of the U.S.” if it attempted to remove Kim Jong-Un from power.
- August 8 – North Korea threatened the U.S. territory of Guam, where 163,000 U.S. citizens reside, and a key U.S. Air Force base is located. Additionally, the Strategic Force of the North Korean People’s Army threatened a pre-emptive ballistic missile strike against the United States mainland.
- August 28 – North Korea launched a ballistic missile directly over Japan, flying over the northern island of Hokkaido.
- September 4 – North Korea claimed to have successfully tested a hydrogen bomb—its most powerful weapon to date.
- September 14 – North Korea says the U.S. should be “beaten to death like a rabid dog” and threatened to vent its spite by reducing the U.S. mainland into ashes and darkness.” They also threatened to sink the four islands of Japan’s archipelago with nuclear weapons.
- September 15 – North Korea launched a second ballistic missile over the Japanese island of Hokkaido.
Historical context is paramount to understanding North Korea’s aggression. The Korean Armistice Agreement of 1953 halted the bloodshed of the Korean War which cost the United States 36,000 American soldiers and wounded another 100,000. It was designed to suspended hostilities while a formal peace treaty could be negotiated. Sixty-four years later, no such peace treaty has been signed. As such, the Korean War has never formally ended, leaving the North Koreans with no assurances that they will not be attacked.
“Although shooting stopped in 1953, Pyongyang insists that the Korean War never ended. It maintains as an official policy goal the reunification of the Korean peninsula under the Kim dynasty.” Because of this, North Korea is desperately pursuing a nuclear weapons program designed to “repel” an invasion by inflicting massive casualties in the early days of conflict. Regardless of the armistice, North Korea is still a nation at war.
This article is excerpted from the paper Evaluating the North Korean Crisis.
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