This past Sunday, a US military carrier diverted to the Western Pacific in light of escalating tensions over North Korea’s recent nuclear weapons testing. US Pacific Command spokesman Dave Benham justified these actions by stating that the ships were “to maintain readiness and presence in the Western Pacific.” Analysts have linked these actions to the Syrian airstrikes, showing that the US is not afraid to exercise the military option in any situation.
On April 7, US President Donald Trump launched airstrikes against the Syrian government in response to reported chemical attacks against civilians. “What happened in Syria is truly one of the [most] egregious crimes, and it shouldn’t have happened. And it shouldn’t be allowed to happen” Trump said to the New York Times in the press cabin last Friday. Two hours after this statement, 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles were unleashed on Al Sharyrat, the location where the chemical attacks originated.
North Korea responded to the airstrikes by saying it was an “intolerable act of aggression against a sovereign state,” and that it justified North Korea’s recent actions to “bolster its own defenses.” These sentiments are in reference to multiple ballistic missile launches and engine testing issued by North Korea over the last two months, aimed at the Sea of Japan and Korean Peninsula.
The United Nations Security Council has strongly condemned North Korea’s actions by stating that they are “in grave violation” of the country’s international obligations under six UN resolutions passed in the last decade. The body cautioned that such activities contribute to the development of nuclear weapons delivery systems and “are significantly increasing tension in the region and beyond.”
These concerns were validated with the most recent aggression this past Tuesday when North Korea fired a ballistic missile into its eastern waters. These actions had both US and South Korean officials worried that they would also conduct banned nuclear tests in protest of the first summit between President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
China has historically been North Korea’s closest ally and trading partner, and as a result, China has been reluctant to isolate this relationship. However, tensions between the countries have been growing with Pyongyang’s refusal to halt missile testing and launching. The US has taken a decisive stance against North Korea’s aggressive action by slapping 11 sanctions on North Korean business representatives and relisting them as a state sponsor of terror. In a recent interview with BBC, Trump expressed his willingness to act by stating “If China is not going to solve North Korea, we will.”
After the meeting between Trump and Xi Jinping this past week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told CBS that “President Xi clearly understands, and I think agrees, that the situation has intensified and has reached a certain level of threat that action has to be taken.” Tillerson described a “shared view and no disagreement as to how dangerous the situation has become” between Trump and Xi Jinping.
Pyongyang has carried out five nuclear tests to date and has been clear that their ultimate goal is to secure the capability to deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental US. When Tillerson was asked if this development would be a ‘red line’ for Trump, he responded: “If we judge that they have perfected that type of delivery system, then that becomes a very serious stage of their further development.”