In another attempt to show that Kim Jong-un is bigger than the children’s pajamas that he wears, North Korea announced today that it was considering the armistice that ended the Korean war in 1953 nullified. This comes on the heals of a threat to launch a preemptive nuclear strike against the United States. This follows a pattern that North Korea has set over the years of escalating threats; however, the inclusion of a nuclear strike on the U.S. is a new, albeit not very realistic, threat. It’s time for the rest of the world, including China, to put North Korea in its place.
North and South Korea have technically still been at war for the last 50 years. The armistice was simply an agreement to end the fighting. The nullification of the armistice means that either side could resume combat at any time. Along with the nullification, the North shut down the phone line that served as a direct line of communication between the two countries. The question is whether or not North Korea is gearing up to resume a war that claimed over 2.8 million lives, including 36,500 U.S. troops.
It is entirely possible that this is just another bluff meant to intimidate the world and get countries to ease the newest sanctions placed on North Korea. However, these kinds of threats must be taken very seriously, even if it is likely that it is a bluff. I don’t think it’s likely that any new sanctions will be successful in persuading the North to cut back on the rhetoric. I believe that it will take action by China to convince Kim Jong-un and his toadies to shut up and calm down.
China is the only world power aligned with North Korea. Recent reports have suggested that even China is getting tired of the constant threats and refusal to accept a rollback of their nuclear program. The continued escalation of threats and any renewed military action against South Korea should prompt China to step in and pull North Korea’s leash. They must make it clear that they will not allow North Korea to act like an angry child constantly threatening, or following through with their threats, to attack others. The resulting backlash of instability in the region is just one of the potential side effects of North Korea and Kim Jong-un’s “little man syndrome.” If China continues to support North Korea and ignore or sidestep the sanctions placed on the country, the relations between China and other nations will begin to suffer. This would lead to negative impacts on the Chinese economy.
To avoid this, China must step in and act as a responsible world power. The world is tiring of North Korean threats and rhetoric – regardless of the fact that many of the threats are unrealistic at this time. Eventually, other world powers will begin to step in themselves. However, I don’t expect other nations, particularly the United States, to respond with a very light hand if provoked.