It started like a joke – North Korea’s testing of missiles when Kim Jong Il, father of the present leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Kim Jong-un, was alive.
The missile testing continued after the son succeeded his father who died in 2011 – despite several requests by the United Nations to the North Korean leader to stop developing missile weapons.
The testing intensified this year when on July 28, North Korea tested a missile that could hit the United States’ mainland.
On August 29, 2017, North Korea fired a long-range missile over the airspace of Japan, across the Northern Island of Hokkaido. That missile landed 733 miles to the east and dropped into the sea. Earlier on August 26, North Korea had launched three missiles. One exploded after launch.
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On September 3, 2017, North Korea reportedly fired the most powerful nuclear weapon in its arsenal.
That bomb is believed to be seven times more powerful than the one that the US dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, in 1945 during the Second World War. It was the 15th, since North Korea began missile testing in 2006.
The United Nation Security Council reacted by passing, on September 11, 2017, a resolution, imposing fresh sanctions against North Korea.
Unanimously approved by the 15-member Security Council, the new sanctions limit shipment of crude oil to North Korea and impose total ban on import of textiles from that country.
Claiming that the UN sanctions were hitting hard at its economy, North Korea heightened its verbal attacks and threats at the US, South Korea and Japan.
Northern Korea threatened to reduce the US to “ashes and darkness”.
A Korean news agency report quoted North Korean leaders as saying: “Now is the time to annihilate the US imperialist aggression. Let’s reduce the US mainland into ashes and darkness.”
For Japanese support for the latest UN sanctions against North Korea, the North Koreans said: “The four islands of the archipelago should be sunk into the sea by the nuclear bomb of Juche.”
“Japan is no longer needed to exist near us,” a statement from the North Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee responsible for foreign affairs and propaganda, has declared.
The North Korean ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Han Tae Song, has said: “North Korea is ready to use a form of ultimate means.”
He added: “The forth-coming measures will make the US suffer the greatest pain it ever experienced in its history.”
A spokesman for the foreign affairs and propaganda committee was reported as saying that the US should be “beaten to death like a rabid dog”.
North Korean President Kim Jong-un has now explained why his country begun testing missiles. He said North Korea wanted to attain “military equilibrium” with the US.
He added that his country was close to that goal which would deter the US from applying the military option to resolve the crisis.
American reactions to the missile tests and verbal threats of North Korea have been cautious, calm and diplomatic.
The US has been exploring diplomatic means to make North Korea put a stop to its missile tests.
It is believed that imposing maximum sanctions against North Korea, with countries trading with that country cooperating, can help resolve the crisis.
China that supplies most of North Korea’s crude oil and Russia, largest employer of labour from that country, are being relied on to apply sanctions.
The US has indicated that it was ready to cut off trade with China if that country failed to play its part in finding diplomatic solution to the crisis.
Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, has said that the US was prepared to cut off trade “with anyone who trades with North Korea”.
“We can stop trade with any country that does business with North Korea. We are going to be careful in using these tools but the president is committed, “He added.
Mr Anthonio Guttures, the UN Secretary General, has himself emphasised that political solution was the only option open to end the crisis.
However, the indications are that the US will not ruled out use of the military option to deter North Korea.
American leaders have warned that they could revert to use of force – if the new UN sanctions failed.
The US ambassador to the UN, Niki Haley, and the US National Security Adviser, HR McMaster, have both indicated that the latest sanctions would take some time to create the required effect.
Is the world on the brink of World War 3?
It appears now that if diplomacy works and if all nations concerned cooperate to rein in North Korea, then the status quo will be preserved and there will be no war.
If diplomacy fails and North Korea continues testing missiles, either North Korea or the US might make a pre-emptive attack.
That is a catastrophic prospect and the world should pray against it.