North Korea: Why Words Have Weight

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North Korea: Why Words Have Weight

Photo: CNN.com

Photo: CNN.com

Photo: CNN.com

Photo: CNN.com

Alex Broening, Assistant International/Domestic News Editor

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The recent barrage of insults traded between President Trump and Kim Jong Un has created a crisis. Military threats have become commonplace, and President Trump’s various threats against North Korea, both in speeches and on Twitter, do nothing to de-escalate the situation. In fact, quite the opposite has been true. “Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at U.N. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won’t be around much longer!” and “Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn’t mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!” are just two tweets that illustrate President Trump’s increasingly provocative and threatening stance toward North Korea.

No longer are the President’s tweets just a window into his mind and how he thinks. Now they are truly affecting policy and international relations. North Korea has taken these provocative tweets as essentially a declaration of war by the United States, and North Korea has claimed the right to shoot down any US bombers, even while outside North Korean airspace. While the White House has called this interpretation of the President’s tweets “absurd,” there can be no doubt that North Korea feels threatened.

With the recent North Korean nuclear tests, the public has become increasingly aware of the risk North Korea poses. It has also become increasingly clear that war with North Korea would have catastrophic consequences. Nuclear conflict would of course be disastrous, with the destruction of cities, hundreds of thousands of deaths, and nuclear fallout that would affect generations. In addition, there is a massive risk for non-Americans. South Korea’s capital city, Seoul, lies 35 miles from the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, well within the range of North Korean artillery. Seoul is the home to almost 10 million people, who would likely be the first to be affected by a war with North Korea. The three year Korean War in the 1950s killed 2.5 million civilians, and ended essentially right where it started. Another war with the North Korea, with 60 more years of technological advancement, would be enormously destructive to all involved.

Despite the clear insanity of a conflict with North Korea, President Trump has consistently provoked North Korea. In addition to his barrage of tweets and his speeches about North Korea, on September 23rd, a formation of American bombers and fighters flew in international waters north of the DMZ, a provocative move. President Trump and Kim Jong Un continue to intensify this crisis, either unaware or uncaring of the consequences. A nuclear North Korea is a ticking time bomb, and President Trump can’t stop the clock.

Anti-American sentiments have taken root in North Korea by form of protest as American B-1 Lancers skirt past North Korea in international airspace. Increasingly heated rhetoric from Donald Trump is reminiscent of brinksmanship tactics used in the Cold War and push the possibility of conflict on the Korean peninsula further. A lesson that should be learned from this exchange is that words have meaning, in every context and especially when there is a thermonuclear bomb aimed at you. While senior foreign policy advisors in the White House and commentators grimace at each tweet, remember that words make a difference.

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