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North Korea’s Global Impact

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North Korea’s Global Impact

As the communist nation continues to build its nuclear program, how will its defiance of the international community impact world events?

Learn the why behind the headlines.

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Patriotic music blares as missiles streak through the air in rapid-fire succession and explode along the horizon, tossing huge plumes of dark smoke into the air. Valiant soldiers parachute into Seoul, the capital city of South Korea, and take captive 150,000 United States expatriates and soldiers.

A caption reads, “North Korea has succeeded in proceeding with this nuclear test despite the United States’ increasingly unfair bully activities against North Korea.”

The film, as translated by The Telegraph, is another saber-rattling media broadcast shown by the North Korean government in its “military propaganda war” that aims to demonstrate that no nation is too large for it to defeat.

Since the sudden death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il and the ascension of his son and successor, Kim Jong Un, these broadcasts have been occurring more frequently. The nuclear-armed nation is continually ratcheting up its rhetoric against the United States and other countries it perceives are in its way.

This has caused concern across the globe regarding the stability of the country.

Kim Jong Il kept the region on edge with what the Financial Times called “deft brinkmanship” during his 17 years as ruler of the impoverished communist nation. But officials worry his son, who became leader a little over a year ago, may continue to assert his authority via military aggression.

Already the nation detonated its third nuclear test and brazenly shredded the armistice agreement it signed with South Korea in 1953. Shortly thereafter, the country cut off all channels of communication with South Korea, ordered its artillery to be combat-ready, and issued threats of preemptive nuclear strikes against the United States and South Korea. Even more, it declared that nuclear war is now unavoidable and warned Japan that Tokyo would be the first target.

These defiant acts clearly signal North Korea’s hardline determination to increase its military standing.

But as imposing as the country’s rhetoric and actions may be, there is a greater issue roiling under the surface: “Though [the nation’s capital] Pyongyang has threatened to launch nuclear strikes on the U.S., the most immediate threat posed by its nuclear technology may be North Korea’s willingness to sell it to nations that Washington sees as sponsors of terrorism. The fear of such sales was highlighted [in late March], when Japan confirmed that cargo seized last year and believed to be from North Korea contained material that could be used to make nuclear centrifuges, which are crucial to enriching uranium into bomb fuel,” The Associated Press reported.

“Outside nuclear specialists believe North Korea has enough nuclear material for several crude bombs, but they have yet to see proof that Pyongyang can build a warhead small enough to mount on a missile. The North, however, may be able to help other countries develop nuclear expertise right now, as it is believed to have done in the past” (ibid.).

This was confirmed recently when it was revealed that the nation may have the potential to load a nuclear device onto a missile.

During a House Armed Services Committee, a Colorado congressman read a line from a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) report that stated, “DIA assess with moderate confidence the North currently has nuclear weapons capable of delivery by ballistic missiles, however, the reliability will be low.”

With a history of unpredictable and confrontational behavior, how will the global ripple effects of an aggressive, nuclear North Korea shape the future balance of world power?

Aggressive Stance

The North Korean government heads the fourth-largest standing army on Earth—more than one million soldiers—as well as a civil defense force group of about 5.7 million people.

“Pyongyang also commands a formidable artillery force numbering some 12,000 guns that some fear it would use as an opening gambit in a war with South Korea to shell Seoul, which lies only about 20 miles from the tense demilitarized zone that separates the two countries,” NPR reported.

For decades, North Korea has made a continued effort to develop into a world military power, most notably pursuing nuclear capability.

In 1994, after years of diplomatic wrangling, the nation agreed to suspend all nuclear-related activities in exchange for fuel, food and financial aid, primarily from the U.S. and China.

The agreement, however, was short-lived. In 2002, Pyongyang restarted its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and expelled UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitors. The following year, it withdrew from the international nonproliferation treaty.

Proceeding events created a vicious cycle of nuclear advancement and international sanctions. In 2006, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test, which elicited military and economic restrictions from the United Nations. Then in 2007, “Pyongyang agreed to shut down its main nuclear reactor at Yongbyon in return for aid and diplomatic concessions.

“But negotiations stalled as North Korea accused its negotiating partners—the US, South Korea, Japan, China and Russia—of failing to meet agreed obligations,” BBC wrote.

The media outlet stated that in May 2009, “Barely a month after North Korea walked out of international talks on its nuclear programme, it carried out its second underground nuclear test, which was said to be more powerful than the first.

“Russia’s defence ministry estimated a blast of up to 20 kilotons, a similar size to the American bombs that completely destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.”

After even tighter sanctions from the UN and U.S., North Korea agreed to resume peace talks.

A year later, a tour of a North Korean uranium enrichment plant was given to a U.S. atomic scientist. Although the plant was said to be for civilian nuclear power, the scientist said he was astounded by its sophistication and that it could easily be converted into a weapons-grade processing facility.

In December 2012, Pyongyang successfully launched a three-stage rocket, which increased its scope of attack. Two months following the launch, another nuclear test was conducted, reported to have been “miniaturized and lighter” so as to be placed on a long-range missile.

Despite international warnings, North Korea has defiantly stated it has the right to a nuclear “self-defense” deterrent and continues to develop its missile and nuclear program.

This belligerent approach has strained its relationships with the United States, South Korea, Japan and even China, all of which are concerned about Pyongyang’s military intentions. As a result, North Korea is widely seen as the greatest threat to peace in the Far East.

Economic Distress

North Korea’s impact on the world scene outweighs its size. Bordered by Russia, China and South Korea, it has a population of 24 million in a landmass slightly smaller than the state of Mississippi. The communist country is perhaps the most isolated, highly controlled in the world. Citizens are closely monitored and the government restricts travel into and out of the country.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Korean peninsula was under Japanese rule. Following Japan’s surrender in World War II, the Soviet Union infiltrated the northern portion of the country and the United States the southern portion. This split the nation into two occupation zones along the 38 degrees north latitude line known as the 38th parallel. As time progressed, the divisions politically and socially polarized—traditional communist ideals in the North and free-market capitalism in the South.

In the late 1940s, Kim Il Sung rose to power and established a communist government in the North: “While promising great wealth for his country, Kim suppressed his people and fashioned a militaristic society. In 1950, he instigated the Korean War following an attempt to reunify the peninsula. (He was rebuffed by U.S. and UN forces.)

“After the war, the state-run economy, based on Kim’s philosophy of ‘self-reliance’ [known as “juche”], grew fairly rapidly but stagnated in the 1990s,” according to Time magazine.

During that decade, the country’s economy declined dramatically under a combination of economic mismanagement, natural disasters, fertilizer shortages, and the collapse of its main benefactor, the Soviet Union. For an economy that was never robust to begin with, the results were catastrophic. Poor agricultural yields led to severe food shortages and widespread starvation. It is estimated that during its time of economic decline, between 900,000 and 3.5 million North Koreans—4 percent to 15 percent of the population—starved to death. Since then, the country has relied heavily on aid from China, South Korea, the U.S., and other international agencies to feed its population.

“North Korea’s history is marred by decades of unimaginable famine. In 2011, Freedom House listed the regime as one of the seven worst violators of human rights in the world. It is a place where political prisoners languish in gulags [Stalin-era labor camps], escaped defectors testify of cannibalism, and famines decimate the population,” CNN reported.

Food shortages continue today mainly due to a lack of arable land, inefficient farming practices, and shortages of tractors and fuel.

The nation’s military-first policy has not helped either. It is estimated that North Korea spends one-third of its gross domestic product (GDP) on the military, the highest rate in the world. (By comparison, its rival South Korea spends only 2.8 percent of GDP on its military.) This has enabled North Korea to have a standing army of one million soldiers and a formidable arsenal of biological, chemical and conventional weapons.

With little over a year under his belt, the nation’s new supreme leader, Kim Jong Un, has proven to follow the same ideology as his predecessors.

“In 2012, Kim Jong Un’s first year of leadership, the North displayed increased focus on the economy by renewing its commitment to special economic zones with China, negotiating a new payment structure to settle its $11 billion Soviet-era debt to Russia, and purportedly proposing new agricultural and industrial policies to boost domestic production,” The World Factbook stated. “The North Korean government often highlights its goal of becoming a ‘strong and prosperous’ nation and attracting foreign investment, a key factor for improving the overall standard of living. Nevertheless, firm political control remains the government’s overriding concern, which likely will inhibit fundamental reforms of North Korea’s current economic system.”

International Concerns

In 2003, a group of the world’s leading nations initiated “Six-Party Talks” in an attempt to persuade the North Korean government to give up its nuclear ambitions, with the proposed incentive of receiving increased economic aid as well as a security agreement from Washington not to attack North Korea.

After several rounds of talks, little progress was made. Then in 2009, after receiving condemnation and expanded sanctions from the United Nations for launching a missile, the country announced it was permanently withdrawing from disarmament talks.

As it presses ahead with its nuclear program, Pyongyang’s aggressive stance is causing rippling effects across the world scene.

South Korea: Political polarization between North and South Korea has prevented any lasting peace on the peninsula. An armistice was signed in 1953 that ended the Korean War, yet the two nations have continued to be at odds and tension has not fully dissipated.

In 2000, South Korean President Kim Dae Jung instituted what was termed a “sunshine policy,” which thawed relations with its northern counterpart. But all of this was undone in 2002 when Pyongyang reactivated its nuclear reactor and expelled foreign nuclear inspectors.

Advances in North Korea’s weapons testing and bold rhetoric within the past year have intensified hostilities to a degree reminiscent of the Cold War. In retaliation, Seoul announced that it would accelerate missile development with a range that would bring all of North Korea within its reach.

United States: America has thousands of troops stationed in South Korea, with potential reinforcements on its military bases in Japan.

Due to North Korea’s intensifying threats, AFP reported that the United States signed a pact with South Korea that “guarantees US support for any South Korean retaliation and allows Seoul to request any additional US military force it deems necessary.”

For further reassurance, “US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told his South Korean counterpart that Seoul could rely on all the military protection the United States has to offer—nuclear, conventional and missile defence” (The Telegraph).

Japan: Tokyo and Pyongyang have not had diplomatic relations for some time. The two countries are historical enemies, with bitterness rising to new heights after Japan’s occupation of Korea and the atrocities it committed in World War II. Contentious relations continued in the second half of the 20th century. For example, in the 1970s and 80s, North Korean spies abducted a number of Japanese nationals, which sparked national outrage.

Now with North Korea’s repeated test-firing of missiles over Japanese territory and direct threats to attack the nation, Japan aims to strengthen its own military defense and integrated capabilities with the United States.

Middle East: Pyongyang is said to have provided weapons to a number of Middle Eastern nations including Iran. It is also believed to be a sponsor of terrorism.

As the state of Israel is supported by the U.S., Arab nations have long sought sponsorship for their cause. A well-armed North Korea provides a potentially attractive option, particularly for weapons procurement and military training. The benefit of such a relationship for North Korea would be the ability to obtain large quantities of cheap oil, which it desperately needs.

China: Since its founding, North Korea has had close ties with the Chinese government, its main supplier of food and fuel. China has an interest in building a stable North Korea, chiefly because of the threat of millions of refugees streaming over its border in search of food.

However, relations between the two countries have cooled in recent years due to North Korea’s volatile behavior. In an unexpected move, China completely halted its crude oil exports to the country in response to its illegal nuclear test in February.

With its recent posturing, the question could be asked: will Beijing be able to persuade North Korea to cooperate with the world community as it continues to advance its nuclear program?

According to Der Speigel, the answer is yes.

“…German commentators say that sanctions and other existing measures are not doing much to deter North Korea from its nuclear ambitions, and suggest taking a different approach.

“The center-left Suddeutsche Zeitung writes:

“‘The country has actually become rather predictable in its provocations, which above all serve one goal: to demonstrate the power of the ruling Kim clan to the world. North Korea’s regime does not act unpredictably. It acts irresponsibly.’

“‘As predictable as [a particular] nuclear test was, the reaction was also to be expected. Governments around the world are indignant, including the country’s friends in Beijing. The US is demanding a sharpening of existing sanctions in the UN Security Council, which further condemned North Korea in a new resolution. After some hesitation China also approved it. Fundamentally the response to the latest nuclear test was not different from the second one. In reality the test has changed little regarding the region’s status quo and geo-strategy with regards to the US.’

“‘Still the tests are highly dangerous. They show that the young Kim is prepared to take big risks…And the nuclear program has another dark side of proliferation because North Korea is a [weapons] exporter…What would prevent a player such as the dictator in Pyongyang from selling knowledge and even material to Iran or other nations?’

“‘In reality there is no satisfactory answer to this question. The only ones with a chance of success of finding an answer are the Chinese.’

“‘Meanwhile, Chinese calculations appear to be shifting. A government newspaper in Beijing spoke of the “high price” that North Korea will pay in the case of nuclear tests. One does not know how the government in Pyongyang will actually react to pressure from Beijing. But now is the time to try it out. The Chinese must take responsibility for its irresponsible neighbor. And they must do it now.’”

A Los Angeles Times article titled, “North Korea, China’s Problem Child,” concurred.

“Although China has new leadership that may be reevaluating its approach to its troublesome neighbor, an unusual amalgam of factors—historical, ideological, strategic and economic—make North Korea something of a sacred cow in Chinese public discourse.

“‘North Korea is a sensitive subject. It used to be impossible to write anything negative about it,’ said Zhan Jiang, a journalism professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University. He said the taboo is gradually lifting. ‘Even the most hard-core leftists are becoming less supportive of North Korea. It is really hard to call them brother when they give you so much trouble.’”

“In a speech…at an international forum, newly installed Chinese President Xi Jinping condemned countries that ‘throw a region and even the whole world into chaos for selfish gains,’ but he did not specifically mention North Korea.

“‘The favorable opinion of the Chinese public toward Pyongyang is fading,’ the Communist Party-affiliated newspaper Global Times cautiously wrote in an editorial…It warned that North Korea’s ‘latest provocation is further damaging its reputation and exhausting its future ability to use deterrence strategies.’

“‘It is like discussing a child who is good, but is behaving rottenly,’ said John Park of Harvard University’s Belfer Center, describing China’s attitudes toward North Korea.

“North Korea owes its continued existence to China, which intervened on its behalf in the 1950-53 Korean War and today supplies it with most of its fuel oil and such consumer products as umbrellas and shampoo.

“Although the current Chinese leaders came of age after the war, several of them have close Korean ties.”

“‘The Korean War is part of the Chinese identity. It was really the first time after the Opium War that China stood up and successfully stopped the West,’ said John Delury, a Chinese studies professor teaching at Seoul’s Yonsei University.”

“But some Chinese still admire North Korea’s undiluted brand of communism.

“‘It is the pure land for some people who feel China’s getting soft,’ said Adam Cathcart, a lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast, who writes a blog about Chinese-North Korean relations. ‘Between China and North Korea, there is a lot of cultural compatibility…You see the patriotic operas, the waving of the red handkerchiefs.’”

Future Situation

Escalating threats have done much to inspire rumors of war. Conflict seems inevitable.

Intelligence specialists, military experts, and government leaders monitor and try to understand this and other geopolitical situations. They analyze possible scenarios and posit questions in an effort to figure out the answers in advance.

Each analyst has his own particular lens through which he views a scenario. For example, if Seoul becomes a nuclear power, what does that mean for a region whose history is wrought with territorial disputes? How would America, which is barely staying afloat and cutting back on its own military expenditures, be able to shoulder another conflict? Would North Korea’s actions give rise to Japanese nationalism and, as many worry, the emergence of Japan as a military and strategic counterweight? Where does China fit into the picture?

While all possible situations are discussed, no human being can precisely predict the decisions a rogue nation will make or how the outcome will affect the world’s future.

Among these perspectives, though, one is dismissed: the Bible. It is the one source that lays out—in advance!—the future. Viewed through the lens of this Book, the geopolitical future of the Far East becomes crystal clear.

The Bible explains that three power blocs will soon vie for world influence. Two are symbolically known as the “king of the north” and the “king of the south” (Dan. 11). A third power is described in the New Testament book of Revelation as “the kings of the east” (16:12).

A confederation of Asian nations, which will include North Korea but likely be led by Russia and China, will emerge. This is described in Editor-in-Chief David C. Pack’s book The Bible’s Greatest Prophecies Unlocked! – A Voice Cries Out.

“Many sense that the differences between and within nations are intensifying and are threatening to spin out of control. New and different power blocs are forming, with traditional alliances wavering, waning or disappearing.”

This is already taking place, with certain larger nations already playing a more central role on the world scene.

Pay attention as these countries, although seemingly separate now, work together to form a power bloc that will affect events—during your lifetime!—in a way that was foretold long ago.

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