The news that North Korea successfully conducted its sixth nuclear weapons test on Sunday has further heightened the tensions over a potential war on the Korean Peninsula and led many to conclude that North Korea is now a global threat. Coming only a week or so after Pyongyang launched a ballistic missile over Japan, the latest test rightly drew much international condemnation, both from the United States and its Western allies and also from China—North Korea’s main trading partner and seemingly the only country potentially capable of reigning in the hermit regime’s bellicose provocations. With this in mind, it is important to look at what this latest test means for the future of the Korean Peninsula and whether it’s a signal that war is imminent as so many are now claiming.
North Korea’s Sixth Nuclear Test
Pyongyang claims that the test was their second successful test of a hydrogen bomb, and although there is no way for Western sources to verify whether or not the weapon tested was actually an H-bomb, the evidence seems to back up the country’s claims. According to various experts, the bomb tested on Sunday likely had a yield of approximately 120 kilotons of TNT. If true, this would make it more than six times stronger than any previous North Korean nuclear test.
To put things in perspective, the latest North Korean test was far more powerful than either of the two nuclear bombs that the United States dropped on Japan at the end of WWII. ‘Little Boy,’ the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, was measured at approximately 15 kilotons of TNT, whereas the ‘Fat Man’ bomb dropped on Nagasaki was only 20 kilotons.
The US Reaction to North Korea’s Latest Nuclear Test
The latest North Korean nuclear test drew a swift and sharp rebuke from virtually all of the world’s major powers. As expected, U.S. President Donald Trump was one of the most vocal critics of the test, but unusually, his criticisms weren’t only reserved for North Korea and its Chinese backers. Instead, Trump almost immediately took to Twitter to criticize his South Korean counterpart for suggestions that South Korea would be willing to negotiate with the North in exchange for ending its weapons program.
President Trump even went so far as to suggest that potential military action against North Korea is now an option, despite every indication showing that this would be a disastrous move for both the United States and the rest of the world. When pressed on the issue as to whether the U.S. would conduct a military strike against Pyongyang for the latest provocation, the only response the US President could muster was ‘We’ll see.’
China, Russia and North Korea vs. US and the West
The biggest problem in the current North Korea situation is that there seems to be no easy solution. In fact, it seems that we are running out of options in general. Despite the fact that the U.S. and most nations continues to condemn Pyongyang for its continued weapons tests, China and Russia seem to oppose any new UN sanctions against the country. Of course, there are also those who believe that the idea of using sanctions to force North Korea’s hand has already been tried and failed, and it seems that much of the current U.S. executive branch is of this opinion.
The problem is that other than continuing to pile new sanctions on North Korea, it doesn’t actually seem that there is much that the U.S. and the West can do to reign in Kim Jong Un’s threatening actions. In fact, the latest rounds of sanctions imposed after the country’s recent missile launch over Japan seem to have had no effect of causing Pyongyang to reel in its military tests, and if anything, have only served to make the North Korean dictator more determined to provoke the U.S. Case in point: the pictures that Kim Jong Un took posing next to his country’s apparent H-bomb shortly before the test took place.
Unfortunately, the question of war over the Korean peninsula is one that is becoming more difficult to answer with every passing day. The North Korean regime seems unwilling to restrain their actions and ready to provoke the U.S. at every turn. Still, the question remains as to what President Trump will do, and whether his advisors will be able to convince him to take a more conciliatory tone and seek negotiations with Pyongyang, or whether the bellicose rhetoric on both sides will eventually spill over into war.