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Sean Sullivan/The Gauntlet

Escalating rhetoric in North Korea

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North Korea is crying for help — but the reclusive country isn’t going to do anything rash anytime soon. On March 5, North Korea scrapped the armistice that ended Korean War hostilities in 1953. The cease-fire ended after a United States-led push for the United Nations to sanction North Korea over its recent nuclear tests. North Korea completed its third nuclear test in February. 


Heated rhetoric has been ongoing and is very common on the Korean peninsula. However, North Korea’s latest temper tantrum is especially poignant because of its specificity. The media is going into a frenzy because the U.S. is specifically targeted — something, of course, that isn’t taken lightly. 


On Feb. 2, North Korea’s official website, Uriminzokkiri, released a video propagating a re-unified Korea, which depicted an American city in flames and ruins. A caption read, “Somewhere in the United States, black clouds are billowing.” The video is depicted as a dream and declares that this dream will come true. More recent propaganda, released on March 19, shows the White House in flames, which came after the U.S. and South Korea were preparing to test B-52 bombers. North Korea warns that “second by second, the fuse of a nuclear war is burning.”


All of this sounds very scary — and it is. However, typical American aggression tactics have to be tossed aside to deal with this hostile situation. 


Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei at a daily news briefing urged the U.S. to act prudently.


“Actions such as strengthening anti-missile [defences] will intensify antagonism and will not be beneficial to finding a solution for the problem,” he said.


North Korean propaganda keeps the world’s attention on the hermit kingdom. Without Kim Jong Un threatening the U.S., the attention of the Western media would be elsewhere. The U.S. is notorious for only paying attention or intervening in hostile situations if they have a vested political interest in the nation or are directly threatened. By now, most people are probably sick of North Korea’s erratic behaviour, however, the current threats bring to light a much greater problem that should be paid attention to regardless of what nation is threatened.


North Korea isn’t the only nation with issues, and it can be argued that South Korea, China, the U.S. and Canada have just as many issues in their own way. However, the fact that millions of North Koreans are starving to death needs to be taken seriously. In a mid-1990s famine, between 1–2 million North Koreans may have died due to starvation and disease which continue to plague the reclusive nation. The UN reported that more than a quarter of North Korean children suffer stunted growth as a result of chronic malnutrition.


Obviously this is not an issue that can be resolved quickly. However, we need to look past the propaganda and threats at the real issue if there is going to be any progress. The starvation epidemic does not, as some media sources have suggested, stem from North Korea’s lack of democracy. North Korea would not react well to American forces intervening in affairs, especially in the political realm. China is the only country with the authority or ability to influence North Korea because of the two nations’ history and political similarities. Other countries need to work with China in order to foster this relationship, and work to prevent trading that would allow the assembly of nuclear weapons. 


The world needs to react delicately to North Korea’s unprecedented action because, while the rhetoric sounds the same and is growing tiresome, an act of outside aggression could turn North Korea’s cry for help into nuclear action. Attention should continue to be paid to the reclusive nation, regardless of military rhetoric because of the extreme suffering of many North Koreans.


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