The headlines recently seem to be torn out of another era, with Russia invading Eastern European countries Cold War mentalities seem to be on the rise. The next step in this return to old foreign policy issues is North Korea’s latest show of power. North Korea has for quite a few years now made seemingly random acts of power as grabs for attention or attempt to show that they are a legitimate player in world politics. Most recently, earlier this week, North Korea both announced that they would perform a test of a nuclear weapon and then launched missiles across their border into South Korean territory. The timing of their actions are suspect to say the least, North Korea most likely is trying to take advantage of the fact that much of the West is preoccupied with Russia at the moment. I will look at what these actions really mean in the context of world politics.
Nuclear Weapon Testing
Unstable regimes like the one in North Korea possessing Nuclear weapons is a serious foreign policy issue. A leader like Kim-Jung Un in North Korea having their finger on the button is frightening and forces other nations to listen to, if not respect, them. That being said, the North Korean nuclear program has historically been extremely unsuccessful and plagued with problems. Further, the fact that North Korea is making such a big deal out of a nuclear test shows that it is nothing more than a stunt for attention. While the international community is rightfully concerned about North Korea possessing nuclear weapons, this most recent test does not worsen the situation.
The missile launches are of much more concern to South Korea and the rest of the world than the possible nuclear test. Although the launches were aimed at the sea, not actually meant to damage South Korean territory it does signify an increased boldness on the part of North Korea. Launching missiles south of their border seems to me to be a method of testing the reaction of the West. If there is not a real and serious response by the West, North Korea will most likely assume that Russia has taken all the attention of the West allowing Kim-Jung Un to take further action in Asia.
The United States and its allies must take action against North Korea to ensure they do not take further liberties. This would most likely take the form of economic and trade sanctions as military action would be too drastic. It will be interesting to see how this situation evolves over the coming weeks.