We’ve heard it from our leaders and the media non-stop these past several years: North Korea as a nuclear state threatens our very existence. So should we really be worried? I mean, this is the same place that has fake villages along the DMZ to fool South Korea into thinking its people have food. The answer is that we should be concerned, but are we facing impending destruction? Probably not.
Admittedly, I learned most of what I know of North Korea from The Interview, but I figure that’s about as accurate a picture as anyone outside of Dennis Rodman can paint you. All kidding aside, North Korean policy took a turn for the worse in the early 2000s after a very promising end to the last century. Relations were beginning to normalize with the south. At that point, declared a “rogue state”, Kim Jong-Il, fearing U.S. military intervention, got his people on the fast track to a nuke. By 2006, while the U.S. was bogged down in other places, North Korea tested its first nuclear weapon. In the decade since, North and South Korea have skirmished almost annually, each time drawing closer to open war. By 2009, the IAEA declared North Korea a “fully fledged nuclear state”.
The death of Kim Jong-Il in 2011 harkened the rise of Kim Jong-Un. If the North Koreans were antagonistic before, this loose cannon was going the send them off the deep end. Since his ascension in 2011, he has continued to develop his nuclear arsenal. Nuclear tests in 2013 and 2015(1), a claimed hydrogen bomb test two months ago(2) and, finally, an allegedly successful satellite launch last month(3). Not to mention the fact that the current estimate places North Korea's nuclear arsenal at 10-156weapons(4).
So what does this mean for us? Well, Lil’ Kim allegedly has a delivery system that can range the west coast, and he came out last week threatening to launch a pre-emptive strike against the United States(5). Nobody ever means that though, right? Well, in the immortal words of Michael Caine: “Some men just want to watch the world burn”. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and you’d be hard pressed to find a less stable world leader. Could North Korea use nukes? Yes. Will they? Probably not... But maybe...