Is the world barreling toward a war that pits North Korea vs US, an event that experts warn would bring grave loss of human life and severe economic decline? With North Korea carrying out its sixth nuclear test, its most powerful by far, on Sunday, worries about imminent war on the Korean Peninsula continue to mount.
A report that surfaced early on Tuesday claimed that North Korea was moving an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) towards its western coast.
Nikki R. Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council on Monday that Pyongyang is “begging for war,” but she urged the international community to “exhaust all of our diplomatic means before it’s too late.” Mrs. Haley’s comments stand in stark contrast to Washington’s rhetoric in the wake of North Korea’s test of a hydrogen bomb, which triggered a tremor that the United States Geological Survey estimated to have a magnitude of 6.3 tremor at the testing site.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis threatened Pyongyang with “a massive military response” if any U.S. territories or allies are targeted. The military response would be “both effective and overwhelming,” Mr. Mattis told reporters outside the White House on Sunday. The following day, President Donald Trump expressed skepticism in the diplomatic approach to reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula. He took to Twitter to criticize South Korea’s call for more diplomacy by referring to it as a form of “appeasement.”
South Korea is finding, as I have told them, that their talk of appeasement with North Korea will not work, they only understand one thing!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 3, 2017
So is a war that pits North Korea vs US likely to happen in the near future? Is the Trump administration mulling a military response to Pyongyang’s recent nuclear test?
North Korea vs US war “not likely” in near future, experts say
Koro Bessho, the Japanese ambassador to the United Nations, stopped short of threatening imminent military action in response to the mounting nuclear threat from North Korea. However, experts say a war that pits North Korea vs US is “not likely in the near future.”
A former U.S. Department of State diplomat specializing in North Korea told ValueWalk on Monday in an exclusive interview that even though Pyongyang’s nuclear tests “represent a continuing escalation of tensions that should gravely concern policymakers and investors,” a war on the Korean Peninsula is “not likely in the near future.” Mintaro Oba advised senior officials in President Barack Obama’s administration on key issues in U.S.-Korea relations. He said the North’s recent nuclear test is “consistent with its strategy of deterring the United States by showing it will continue to develop its nuclear and missile capabilities in ways that can inflict great costs to the United States and its allies.”
Mr. Oba also downplayed the Defense Secretary’s “massive military response” warnings, saying that Mattis’ remarks simply “represent an attempt to set clear expectations about the costs we will inflict if North Korea does attack.”
Most powerful nuclear test by far
North Korea showed off its newest advancements in nuclear technology over the weekend. On Saturday, Pyongyang’s state-run media outlet released exclusive images of leader Kim Jong-Un standing next to what appeared to be a two-stage thermonuclear weapon.
In his analysis for Foreign Policy, Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, noted that the weapon was “small enough to arm one of North Korea’s long-range missiles that can strike the United States.”
Less than 24 hours later, North Korea once again thrust its name into the global spotlight by carrying out its most powerful nuclear test to date. Nuclear weapons experts and seismologists, who measure nuclear explosions with the same scale used for earthquakes due to the similar pattern of ground shaking, estimated that Sunday’s explosion was over ten times more powerful than the one the North carried out in September 2016.
In fact, the most recent nuclear explosion was so powerful that the United States Geological Survey even recorded a second seismic event a few moments after the initial explosion. Mr. Lewis explained that it “appears to have been a collapse inside the cavity created by the explosion.”
North Korea: Global, imminent and existential threats
Pyongyang’s new nuclear test comes weeks after the North Korea vs US tensions reached their lowest level in the aftermath of the North conducting two successful ICBM tests. The tests triggered a furious response in the international community, with President Trump warning of “fire and fury” and triggering a lengthy war of words with the rogue state.
North Korea responded to President Trump by saying it was willing to strike the U.S. territory of Guam, a remote island sitting a little more than 3,000 km from North Korea. After a few weeks of relative silence, North Korea fired a missile on Japan in late August, prompting the Asian nation to urge its citizens to seek refuge in shelters. As predicted by the Japanese, the missile flew straight over their country and landed in the Pacific Ocean.
Sunday’s nuclear test by North Korea has left Japan and other U.S. allies rattled. Koro Bessho, the Japanese ambassador to the UN, said the danger from Pyongyang has been “raised to an unprecedented level,” while François Delattre, the French ambassador to the UN, called for a new round of sanctions against the Kim regime.
In a speech to the UN council on Monday, Mr. Delattre said North Korea was no longer a “regional,” “virtual” and “serious” threat, but a “global,” “imminent” and “existential” one.
Significant economic consequences and massive loss of life
The North Korea vs US tensions have already affected the global economy, with trading and investment experts raising “a caution flag on asset values in 40% of the world economy.” That flag is represented by countries that would be directly affected by a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula, Dr. Michael Ivanovitch said in his commentary for CNBC.
In a research paper for Capital Economics, experts Gareth Leather and Krystal Tan detailed how a North Korea vs US war would cause a global economic decline and supply chain disruptions around the world. The experts warned of “significant economic consequences” of a looming military conflict in Korea due to the U.S., the world’s largest economy, being in the center of the conflict.
The “most important impact,” the experts noted, would be “a massive loss of life.”