The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has been busy the past few months; very busy.
In January, North Korea conducted what it claims was its first hydrogen bomb detonation. This was followed up with the successful launch of a long range rocket under the guise of the country’s allegedly burgeoning space program; both of which were in clear violation of multiple UN security resolutions.
The international community condemned these activities, to which North Korea replied by declaring its intent to follow up with additional missile and rocket tests.
North Korea made good on this declaration, and in the past two months has fired 15 rockets and missiles on 4 separate occasions. The regime has also claimed to have developed the technology capable of miniaturizing nuclear warheads to be used on ballistic missiles.
The UN has responded by imposing further sanctions on North Korea, targeting North Korean organizations engaged in finance, transportation, mining, and energy activities. In a significant move, China, North Korea’s most important ally, has backed these sanctions and urged North Korea to adhere to the security resolutions.
In typical fashion, North Korea has responded to China’s discontent and the UN sanctions by firing 5 short range missiles into the East Sea on Monday, March 21st.
Much of North Korea’s recent efforts have been met with ridicule from social media and other popular news outlets. This is especially evidenced by the response to the recent pictures that have depicted North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, standing near an alleged miniature nuclear warhead. The warhead in the picture, with its dimpled and glossy appearance, has garnered humorous comparisons to a giant golf and disco ball from media outlets. However, all of the recent developments in North Korea are indicative of the potential ability and ultimate goal of the regime to develop technology capable of creating intercontinental nuclear missiles.
Indeed, North Korea has now conducted four separate nuclear tests which experts contend is sufficient in developing nuclear warheads capable of fitting on a ballistic missile. Thus, North Korea’s recent activities may not warrant the response they have been given.
Notwithstanding, analysts such as Bruce Klinger at the Heritage Foundation and Melissa Hanham at the East Asia Nonproliferation Program of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies contend there is no need to panic, but it may be high time to start taking North Korea’s developments seriously.