The armistice of hostility: North Korea threatens the US and South Korea

North Korea launches test missiles and the UN Security Council fires back with economic sanctions


Tensions continue to rise along the North and South Korean border, just days after the UN Security Council approved sanctions against North Korea. Following North Korea’s hydrogen bomb test in January and long range rocket tests last month, the UN imposed its toughest sanction on Korea in twenty years. With many nations taking a joint stance on condemning Pyongyang for testing missiles.

The US is especially concerned with North Korea’s long range missile tests and take North Korea’s threats to use them, or indiscriminate nuclear strikes ,very seriously. The US demands that North Korea cease the provocation and threats made to American national security.

Along the world’s most heavily armed border, threats made by North Korea in the form of increased cyber-attacks and the missile tests continue to threaten the delicate “peace” between both sides.

Given the severity of the situation, China, a close neighbour and ally of Pyongyang, also reluctantly agreed to several economic sanctions aimed at shutting down financing for North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. This comes just two years after sanctions banned North Korea’s export and import of luxury items and nuclear or missile item technology.

The new economic sanctions raise concerns for the economic stability of North Korea and its impacts on North Korea’s largely impoverished and undernourished population. The sanctions are aimed at the financial and banking sector requiring countries to freeze the assets of companies and other entities linked to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

While North Korea invests in nuclear and missile technology the well-being and potential of its population is severely compromised. As the country continues to spend billions on nuclear and missile tests, the United Nations spends over $100 million annually on humanitarian aid in North Korea.

There is a need for a formal peace treaty and denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in place of the existing armistice since it continues to encourage the hostility between the two sides.

The economic sanctions coupled with the US and South Korea’s annual military drills further threaten the fragile peace between North Korea and South Korea.

South Korea reports this year to be its largest joint military exercise, involving 300,000 South Korean and 17,000 US troops who work on drills for precision attacks on North Korean leadership and its arsenal in the event of war.

In 2013, similar nuclear threats were made by North Korea around the time of the military drills, which were viewed as invasion rehearsals and a threat to North Korea’s security. Analysts say that in retaliation to the drills held by the US and South Korea, the impoverished country is responding with costly drills of their own.

These annual drills enhance hostility and elicit a response from North Korea, which has threatened to launch pre-emptive strikes and liquidate South Korean assets. Their remaining assets were left behind in the Kaesong industrial zone and Mount Kumgang tourist zone valued at $1.17 billion US dollars. 

The yearly drills, failed attempts at peace, exchanged threats, militarization and differing ideologies between North and South Korea point to an uncertain and unstable future. Although sanctions hinder the development of nuclear and missile technologies in North Korea, they do not prevent it. Sanctions will only further impact the economic conditions of North Korea’s population and provide incentive for grievance-motivated conflict.

With possible conflict on the horizon, nuclear weapons and missiles make any such war a concern for the entire world given the imminent mass destruction. Brokering a peace treaty becomes imperative as the economic and human costs of the ongoing hostility rise. The ideological conflict that started around the time of the Cold War, continues to be propagated today by the same sides.