The deteriorating situation between the United States and North Korea is reaching a boiling point, with White House officials going so far as to devise contingency military plans for use against the communist state. The U.S. military presence is growing on the Korean peninsula, and appears ready and willing to go to war at any moment. With all the information streaming in from the Korean peninsula, here's what you need to know.
THE RECENT EVENTS
- North Korea vamped up its nuclear missile program in April, and began testing missiles in defiance of resolutions by the U.S. and the United Nations Security Council. The U.N. attempted to pass further resolutions on North Korea, ordering it to stop its nuclear program. The resolution was blocked by Russia. Regardless, the attempted resolution only angered North Korea, which blamed the U.S. for the increasing tensions in the region. (CNN — April 21)
- In late April, the U.S. set up the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) in South Korea in an effort to protect the country from a potential North Korean missile attack. Also, a U.S. guided missile submarine docked in South Korea, and the USS Carl Vinson aircraft supercarrier headed toward the Korean peninsula for joint exercises with South Korea's military. (LA Times — April 26)
- In early May, North Korean envoy Choe Il revealed North Korea's plan to launch its sixth nuclear test on the "Day of the Sun," which commemorates the birthday of Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Un's grandfather and first dictator of North Korea. President Donald Trump responded by sending a naval strike group into the region, vowing not to allow this test to happen. The test did not occur, and North Korea denounced any foreign interference with their nuclear program, including from their long-time ally, China. Choe told Sky News that "If the U.S. moves an inch, then we are ready to turn to ashes any available strategic assets of the U.S." (Newsweek — May 10)
- In early June, a crashed drone believed to belong to the North Korean military was discovered in a remote South Korean forest, containing photographs of the U.S. THAAD system. Some South Korean officials question the security of their airspace if they were unable to detect a simple drone. (TheBlaze — June 13)
- American college student, and North Korean prisoner Otto Warmbier, 22, was released to the U.S. in a coma. Doctors say he suffered from “cardiopulmonary arrest,” as a result of intoxication or traumatic injury. On June 19, Warmbier died as a result of his condition. Warmbier's tragic story throws fuel increases tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. (TheBlaze — June 15)
- Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster said during a security conference that the White House is preparing a range of strategies to deal with the rising North Korean threat, including a military strategy. (TheBlaze — June 28)
- In late June, North Korean Ambassador Kim In Ryong told the U.N. Security Council that it will continue to build its nuclear arsenal regardless of any sanctions placed on the country. (NY Post — June 29)
- Kim Jong Un personally oversaw a successful test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that experts say has the capability to reach Alaska. Kim calls it a "gift" for the "American bastards" as the U.S celebrated its Independence Day. (TheBlaze — July 4)
- Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of American forces in Seoul, warned North Korea that the only thing keeping the U.S. from going to war with North Korea is "self-restraint." Simultaneously, as a show of force against North Korea, the U.S. and South Korean forces jointly conducted a missile test with the a missile capable of making “a precision strike at the enemy leadership.” (TheBlaze — July 5)
- During a speech in Poland, Trump said that he is prepared to do some "very severe things" to North Korea over its "very bad behavior." Meanwhile, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley informed the U.N. Security Council that the U.S. was drafting a resolution that raises the international response against North Korea, but warned that the U.S. is willing to take other measures if diplomacy fails. Haley says we will use our "considerable military forces" if we must. (The Guardian — July 6)
WILL CHINA HELP?
- The U.S. has continued to seek help from North Korea's major ally, China, who has urged the communist state to discontinue its nuclear program. China has warned North Korea that the U.S. will not coexist with a nuclear-armed Pyongyang, and has stated it is willing to stand with the U.N. in imposing severe restrictions on North Korea, including the stoppage of oil shipments into the country. (NY Post — April 12)
- However, Trump has expressed anger with China for what he considers lukewarm responses of North Korea, going so far as to put sanctions on Chinese entities that have ties to North Korea, as well as making a $1.42 billion arms deal with Taiwan. (CNBC — July 5)
- On Wednesday, Trump took to Twitter to express his frustrations with China for working with North Korea, saying "so much for China working with us," after saying trade between China and North Korea grew almost 40 percent. It is not immediately clear where he got this figure. (Twitter — July 6)
- Trump and China's President Xi Jinping are to meet in Germany at the G20 summit tomorrow to discuss further actions against North Korea. (The Guardian — July 6)
Neither the U.S. or North Korea are signaling that they are willing to back down. Choe's warning to the U.N. that there will be no halt to North Korea's nuclear program, and the continued missile tests are pushing U.S. leadership in both the White House and the military toward accepting a military route.