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Russia Ukraine war not enough? Nuclear threat from North Korea draws world ire

Russia-Ukraine war not enough? Nuclear threat from North Korea draws world ire

Russia-Ukraine war not enough? Nuclear threat from North Korea draws world ire
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By Akriti Anand  Nov 28, 2022 11:25:27 AM IST (Published)

An analysts said North Korea wants to reunite with South Korea, while another argued that its leader Kim Jong Un might want to "extract sanctions relief and economic handouts".

India joined the United States (US), South Korea and a dozen other nations last week to condemn North Korea’s recent intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch. Ruchira Kamboj, a permanent representative to the UN at the UNSC, said the "proliferation of nuclear and missile technologies" have an "adverse impact on peace and security in the region, including India". She reiterated India's "continued support for denuclearisation".

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The saga over nuclear threats continues as North Korea seems to be coming out all guns blazing with its record-breaking military drills that have sent fears of a seventh nuclear test soaring. For the past few months, North Korea has been rampantly carrying out ballistic missile launches that has worried the United States (US), South Korea, Japan and importantly, the United Nations (UN).
This came months after Russian President Vladimir Putin had warned of his readiness to use “all means available to protect Russia”. His statement had sparked global threats over possible use of nuclear weapons. While the rumours died following a clarification by Putin himself, another scare, straight from North Korea, now stares in the face of the world.
The record-breaking blitz
On November 18, North Korea tested the Hwasong-17 new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Japan alleged that the missile had splashed down in its exclusive economic zone.
The Hwasong-17 test of North Korea demonstrated the capabilities of a weapon potentially able to deliver a nuclear warhead to anywhere in the United States, Reuters reported. It was first unveiled at a military parade in October 2020 and first tested last March.
For those who don't know what these ICBM missiles are -- an Intercontinental ballistic missile has the range to carry a nuclear weapon or a bomb. ICBMs are North Korea's longest-range weapon, and November 18 launch was its eighth ICBM test this year, as per a tally from the US State Department.
World condemns North Korea missile tests
The G7 statement said North Korea's missile test is a "reckless act" and "another blatant violation" of UN resolutions. Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) decried the "dangerous" test of North Korea's intercontinental ballistic missile and said, "The EU is deeply concerned by such dangerous, illegal and reckless action." The US, South Korea and Japan also strongly condemned the latest launch.
On the eve of the G20 summit, US President Joe Biden made it clear to Xi Jinping that China has an obligation to try persue North Korea out of resuming nuclear testing. He, however, clarified: "...it's difficult to say that I am certain that China can control North Korea." When South Korea also pinned hope on China, Xi reportedly said he hoped the South would actively improve its relations with the North.
Does North Korea intend to invade South Korea?
Lt Col (retired) JS Sodhi, a Defence and Strategic Affairs analyst, argued that North Korea's Supreme leader Kim Jong Un has the "sole aim of unifying the Korean peninsula". Meanwhile, Kanishkan Sathasivam, Professor of International Relations at Salem State University, Salem, said, "For many years now, because of their inherent weaknesses across the board, North Korea had given up on its past ambition of invading the South."
He, however, said that it may be the case now that "the North Korea has reverted to a doctrine of potentially carrying out offensive military actions against South Korea". This might be "because of new-found confidence from their large nuclear arsenal, coupled with ballistic missiles capable of delivering those nuclear warheads".
Is this nuclear threat real or a bluff?
Sathasivam told CNBCTV-18.com that some analysts argued that miscalculations about one's opponent's resolve or credibility vis-à-vis nuclear retaliation may convince a regime to use tactical nuclear weapons as offensive weapons in a war.
He explained: "With the current North Korean regime, I can envision exactly such a scenario where the North comes to believe that they can use a limited number of tactical nukes on the battlefield and get away with it without US nuclear retaliation, especially in the face of a North Korean capability and threat to escalate to launch long-range nuclear missiles at US cities. Would a US president be willing to risk Los Angeles in retaliation for North Korea having used tactical nukes against South Korean army formations on the battlefield?".
But why this aggression now?
Sodhi believes that Kim Jong Un suffers from medical problems and on top, like China's Xi Jinping, Kim also wants to become "an iconic leader" of his nation.
Kim's sister had in August revealed that he had suffered a "fever" during the COVID outbreak in North Korea. Also, last year, his sudden weight loss sparked rumours about his ill health.
"So whatever balance time he has, he is trying to threaten the US and South Korea with a single aim of reuniting the Korean peninsula. But this will never happen because South Korea will never like to get reunited and the USA won't allow this to happen either," he said.
Kim angered over US-South Korea ties?
Following North Korea’s earlier launches, the South Korean and US air forces agreed to extend their ongoing combined aerial drills. They also carried out a maritime naval exercise recently. Forces of the two nations deployed more than 200 warplanes, including advanced F-35 fighter jets, for the “Vigilant Storm” exercises, news agency Associated Press reported.
Later, in a statement issued through state media, a senior North Korean military official accused the allies of pushing tensions to an "uncontrollable state" by extending their "provocative military acts". He said, "The US and South Korea will get to know what an irrevocable and awful mistake they made."
North Korea — a nuclear weapon state
In September 2022, North Korea passed a law officially declaring itself a nuclear weapons state, a status that leader Kim Jong Un said is "irreversible". He stressed that his country will never abandon the nuclear weapons and that there would be no denuclearisation negotiations, news agency Associated Press had reported quoting state media.
The United States had been urging North Korea to give up nukes. However, nuclear disarmament talks between the US and North Korea have been stalled since 2019 because of disagreements over an easing of crippling US-led sanctions against North Korea in exchange for denuclearization steps.
For Kim, "The purpose of the United States is not only remove our (North Korea's) nuclear might, but eventually forcing us to surrender or weaken our rights to self-defence through giving up our nukes so that they could collapse our government at any time."
Kim's nuclear ambitions
North Korea had earlier approved plans to assign new duties to front-line army units, sparking speculation it was a step toward deploying battlefield nuclear weapons along its border with South Korea.
"The basic mission of our nuclear force is to deter war but our nuclear weapons cannot be bound to only one mission. If any force attempts to usurp the fundamental interests of our country, our nuclear force will have no choice but to carry out its second mission unexpectedly," North Korea's Kim Jong Un had said in one of his fiery speeches earlier.
He had also threatened to mobilise nuclear deterrents in any future military clash with the two nations. "We will continue to take steps to strengthen and develop our nation's nuclear capabilities at the fastest pace," AFP had quoted Kim as saying.
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