North Korea is an impoverished nation, having a per capita GDP one 18th that of their neighbors to the south. As Kim Jong-Un’s people starve and suffer unacceptable violations of human rights, North Korea invests in its military and its nuclear weapons programs. Kim Jong-Un is desperate to be taken seriously, and is using military buildup to chase this goal.

In a recent interview, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called Kim a “crazy fat kid that’s running North Korea.” McCain is right, and here’s the big problem: this “crazy fat kid” has access to a nuclear arsenal, and international tensions are rising. According to recent comments, Kim is not afraid to use his military against the U.S. and its allies.

North Korea has been a thorn in the side of the West for decades. The rogue nation conducted its first nuclear test, a relatively low yield underground detonation, in 2006. Since that date, North Korea has consistently prodded the civilized world with unnecessary threats and posturing. Today, North Korea has evolved into a more serious military threat.

Estimates vary, but The Federation of American Scientists believes North Korea has between 10 and 20 nuclear weapons.

While most believe North Korea’s missile technology is presently incapable of reaching the U.S. mainland, the regime does pose a serious threat to South Korea, Japan and other nations in the region. Additionally, the U.S. has nearly 80,000 troops stationed in South Korea alone; these brave men and women are at great risk as well. If North Korean technology is allowed to advance much farther, the U.S. mainland could come into range of their nuclear weapons. This is a nightmare scenario.

During the eight years of the Obama administration, the idea of a preemptive U.S. strike against North Korea seemed outlandish; very few people could envision Obama giving such an order.

Now, with tempers flaring in North Korea and Donald Trump sitting in the Oval Office, that type of order seems to be a real possibility. Trump already pulled the trigger in Syria; that strike proves our new president is not afraid to act boldly. Time will tell if he acts similarly in North Korea.

On Easter Sunday the North Koreans, ignoring unified warnings from the international community, conducted another missile test. While the test failed, it serves as another example that the North Koreans will never play nicely with the rest of the world.

Lt. General H. R. McMaster, Trump’s National Security Advisor, responded strongly to the missile test in an interview with ABC: “This latest missile test just fits into a pattern of provocative and destabilizing and threatening behavior on the part of the North Korean regime, and I think there’s an international consensus now — including the Chinese and the Chinese leadership — that this is a situation that just can’t continue.”

McMaster went on: “The president has made clear that he will not accept the United States and its allies and partners in the region being under threat from this hostile regime with nuclear weapons, and so we’re working together with our allies and partners, and with the Chinese leadership, to develop a range of options.”

McMaster is finally calling for action that will lead to lasting stability on the Korean peninsula, action carried out by all the region’s major players in coordination with the United States. However, McMaster, is not calling for war. He believes “It’s time for us to undertake all actions we can, short of a military option, to try to resolve this peacefully.”

If Trump shares the opinion of his National Security Advisor, he will not authorize military force in North Korea. The U.S. Navy strike group floating off the coast of Japan, and the tremendous firepower they hold, may just be insurance.

Slaps on the wrist from the UN won’t work now, just as they haven’t worked in the past; the UN isn’t heard by those in Pyongyang. Weak sanctions won’t work either, they have been tried before.

It’s time for the U.S., South Korea, China and others to stand against the North Korean regime and put an end to its menacing existence once and for all. The combined power of an international coalition may be enough to end the madness without any shots being fired. A period of peace in the Korean peninsula is long overdue.

Some in the media have called the situation in North Korea a “Cuban Missile Crisis in slow motion.” Hopefully this conflict ends just as the Cuban Missile Crisis did: without explosions.

schroelm@miamioh.edu

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