This photo, provided by the North Korean government on Oct. 10, 2022, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspecting a missile test at an undisclosed location in North Korea. Courtesy of the Associated Press.

North Korea Tensions Flare Amidst Missile Testing

The continued tension surrounding North Korea has recently heightened. After years of speculation as to whether or not the military of North Korea possessed long-range nuclear weapons, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un (he/him) initiated the launch testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that, according to the North Korean Central News Agency, are “ready to hit and wipe out the set objects at any location.” ICMBs are missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Earlier this month, North Korea ramped up its missile testing, launching over 30 missiles in a single week and prompting an evacuation alert in northern Japan. NPR also reported that a North Korean missile crossed the maritime border between North Korea and South Korea for the first time since the end of the Korean war.

Conflict in the region goes back to the 1950s, with America sending military support to the southern half of the Korean peninsula to fight against the communist-backed northern half. The Korean War lasted three years before ending in an armistice in 1953, although because a treaty was never signed, the war has not officially ended. A demilitarized zone was created between North Korea and South Korea, with the general understanding that the two countries would go their own ways in terms of governance while keeping a watchful eye on each other.

However, during the latter half of the 2010s, friction between the US and North Korea escalated. Former President Donald Trump (he/him) had a volatile relationship with Kim Jong-un. During his tenure, the North Korean military claimed that their missiles had been gaining the ability to hit the US mainland. There were glimpses of cataclysm, notably from Trump’s repeated mockery of the North Korean leader on Twitter, as well as glimpses of reprieve, in summits aimed at finding mutual understanding and compromise between the two leaders.

Though these summits appeared to present a path towards peace, the recent actions by North Korea have shown that tension remains. Amidst the firings of missiles, President Joe Biden (he/him) has warned Chinese President Xi Jinping (he/him) that these actions could warrant a stronger US military presence in the region, as even 70 years after the Korean War, China is still allied with North Korea. Biden has acknowledged that with China being so close to North Korea, China could become collateral damage should the worst-case scenario happen.

Biden and Jinping are set to meet for the first time at the G20 summit in Bali on November 15th. With Biden rejecting the direct communication approach of his predecessor, he will attempt to use China as the middleman to negotiate with Kim Jong-un.

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