U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, has warned that the U.S. is willing to use military force in order to stop the threat from North Korea, in response to the test missile launched earlier this week. The international community has condemned the actions of North Korea, but is concerned about escalating tensions from the unpredictable state. Newsweek reports that Haley has called on the international community to do more, such as introduce new sanctions, and she reiterated the complaint by President Trump that China needs to do more and stop trade with North Korea. Reuters states that the G20 leaders, currently meeting in Germany, are discussing ways to rein in North Korea’s weapons programme.
Nikki Haley has made the intentions of the U.S. clear, saying, “One of our capabilities lies with our considerable military forces. We will use them if we must, but we prefer not to have to go in that direction.” Haley also described the global aspect of the issue, saying, “We will work with China, we will work with any and every country that believes in peace. But we will not repeat the inadequate approaches of the past that have brought us to this dark day.” This statement proves that the U.S. has tried and will continue efforts to resolve the situation without escalation. However, it also indicates a breaking point being reached where the U.S. feels it has limited options in eliminating the threat from North Korea.
The actions taken by the U.S. may be seen as a last resort since peaceful means of negotiations have been exhausted. However, many criticize the use of economic sanctions as a punishment for non-compliance or to get a country to agree. This is because the actions will likely impact poor civilians long before it achieves any end goal. This is one of the motivations stated by China in not exercising full sanctions against North Korea. Whether this is legitimate can be questioned, but it is important to note that the use of sanctions is often a long-term effort to break a country’s leadership into agreeing to terms they had previously refused. However, considering the recent actions of North Korea in testing missiles, specifically against UN resolutions, perhaps this warrants a collective effort, with the involvement of China to force a solution quickly. As long as China remains a trading partner, there will be enough for North Korea to continue its current actions. This is a difficult solution which is likely to result in suffering for many poor citizens of North Korea. Perhaps if China indicated that it will stop trade with North Korea if they continue testing, it would be enough to stay the hand of Kim Jong Un, if he rationally considers (or is rationally advised) of the potential impact of a cease in all trade. This action is preferable as it would avoid the actual imposition of restrictions. However, if North Korea does not back down, this would force China to follow through with their actions and result in a full trade sanction. In light of the options left available, there may be no choice but to at least try this approach, as it is still preferable to the extensive use of force, which would likely be through missile attacks. These attacks would indiscriminately injure and kill civilians in North Korea, but also in South Korea, as this is where the U.S. has many missiles ready to launch.
The situation in North Korea has escalated and the missile test has pushed the U.S. towards breaking point in their reluctance to use force. This would be a concern globally as it is essentially a repeat of the Cold War but with, arguably, more volatile, unpredictable actors. The international community is running out of good options and may have to resort to a less ideal solution. However, the solution proposed above would still be favourable to a potential large-scale war, which looms ominously close based on the statements coming from the U.S.