News about North Korea had been quiet for a while but now the country is making headlines again with the hydrogen bomb announcement last month and new long ranged rocket launches over the last couple of days. But what history does Korea have of making headlines?
Ever since the Korean war (1950-1953), tensions have run high between North and South Korea. South Korea is viewed by most as a peaceful, forward-thinking nation, whereas its northern neighbour is often looked upon with suspicion and fear. The armistice agreed at the end of the Korean war established the Korean Demilitarisation Zone, as well as the
“complete cessation of all hostilities in Korea by all armed forces”
This agreement lasted until 1996, when North Korea declared that it would no longer abide by the armistice and sent thousands of troops into the demilitarised zone.
North Korea’s nuclear and military capabilities have, for a long time now, been immense. Despite declaring to the world in 1985 that it did not have any nuclear weapons (as part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty), a mere 7 years later North Korea is accused of still producing nuclear weapons. In 1998, North Korea fired a rocket over Japan and into the Pacific Ocean, causing great alarm, as this was far more advanced than the world believed North Korea’s capabilities allowed. President George W. Bush called North Korea, along with Iran and Iraq the “axis of evil” for continuing to build “weapons of mass destruction”. The tension between the US and North Korea began to build later in 2002, succeeded by the US and Japan stopping oil shipments in response to North Korea admitting it had secretly been developing a nuclear weapons programme, including reactivating previously shut-down nuclear facilities. Over the next couple of years, North Korea continued to build up their nuclear capabilities and fire test rockets, which were then reported to be able to hit the US. This was despite the almost global condemnation of their actions.
Peace talks between North and South Korea broke down in March of 2008, when North Korea expelled southern officials and test-fired short range rockets. A short time later, North Korea accused South Korea of “hostile intent”, scrapping all military and political deals with them, as well as launching a long ranged rocket and carrying out a second underground nuclear test, both strongly condemned by the UN Security council.
In 2011, Kim Jong-Il died and Kim Jong-un took his place. Many countries hoped that this would be a turning point, that the new leader could be persuaded to put an end to hostilities between North Korea and the rest of the world. However, less than a year later, North Korea launched long-range rockets, viewed internationally as a banned technology, claiming it has missiles that can once again hit the US mainland. During 2013, North Korea launched many more short-range missiles, as well as performing another nuclear test, believed to be more powerful than all previous tests. In August 2015, North Korea fired missiles at South Korea during annual military exercises in response to the south playing propaganda over loudspeakers at the north/south border.
At the start of this year, North Korea announced that it had begun testing its first hydrogen bomb, causing a 5.1 magnitude earthquake and alarm throughout the world. Even their long-time ally China has expressed “regret” at North Korea’s continued investment in the bomb that is claimed to be able to “wipe out the whole US territory”. Now the north has launched a long-range rocket, which the international community view as a test of banned technology. The rocket is reported to be successfully orbiting the planet now. The action is viewed more than anything as a direct provocation towards the US and the south; however even allies such as China say that the launches are being used to develop inter-continental ballistic missiles.
North Korea are as big a threat to the world’s security as ever – just because they aren’t in the headlines doesn’t mean that they aren’t dangerous.