Kim Jong Un and His Nuclear Toys

(Photo from LA Times)

Yesterday a four-minute video was posted on the YouTube channel of the North Korean government website showing images of imagined missile attacks on the White House and the Capitol in Washington DC. The narrator states, “The White House has been captured in the view of our long-range missile, and the capitol of war is within the range of our atomic bomb.” While analysts have stated that North Korea is still years away from being able to launch nuclear missiles at the United States, the White House is not taking this propaganda lightly.

North Korea recently threatened to attack the U.S. and South Korea with nuclear weapons after the U.N. Security Council voted to impose harsher sanctions on North Korea for its nuclear test last month. The new North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, is unpredictable, to the point where officials are admitting that the U.S. must be ready for anything. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said the U.S. plans to add ground based missile interceptors on our west coast.

How serious should we take this threat? While this is not the first time that North Korea has posted a threatening video, the intent of their government is clear. I realize that they cannot reach the U.S. with missiles yet, but it is only a matter of time.

When I first read this news article and watched the video, I imagined a group of children sitting in a room in North Korea laughing and absent-mindedly A) thinking that they created something with any value at all and B) not realizing that their foolish actions should and will have serious repercussions. Then I realized that we are dealing with a child.  Kim Jong Un is 28 years old and is trying to impress his followers and his military. We do not know what he is capable of at this point, but based on this video, I do not think he deserves any credit whatsoever. I know that the United States will take measures to ensure our safety, but do you think more should be done? Should the U.S. be more proactive in response to this threat? No one wants another war, but in light of the circumstances should we consider pre-emptive military action?

Source: CNN


  1. I do not think that military action is the best move here. Military action would further spread and deplete U.S. resources and make us more vulnerable to a calculated attack in the Middle East or, even worse, at home. While I agree that Kim Jong Un needs to be watched very closely and certainly cannot be trusted, I think that there are still many options. The best case scenario is to continue the multi-lateral efforts with China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea. The second option is to propose a Security Council Resolution to impose heavier, more crippling sanctions. And, if all else fails I believe that a strong cyber-attack on North Korean systems would be a strong message to send.

  2. The legality of a pre-emptive strike as a function of self defense has for many years been the subject of interpretation and debate. Article 2 section 4 of the U.N. charter prohibits countries from exercising the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state. Article 51 states though that every country has a right to defend itself if an armed attack occurs. The United States has long held that in combination with Article 51 and customary international law, self defense may be used: 1. if the U.S. has been attacked, or 2. if an armed attack is legitimately deemed to be imminent. An example of what a country claimed to be an imminent attack is Israel’s attack on Iraq’s nuclear facility in 1981. Israel justified its actions claiming that it was imminent that Iraq would use nuclear bombs against Israel as soon as they developed them and so this strike was self defense and legal under the UN Charter. The U.N., including the U.S., disagreed and strongly condemned Israel. (UN resolution 487 (1981)). There are many threats made against the United States but I believe the main point of whether we should do a pre-emptive strike would be if the threat is legitimately realistic and the strike is necessary. Necessary meaning that there are few if any options left besides aggression to prevent a legitimate imminent threat. We must remember that North Korea is hardly what Russia was during the Cold War. The threat back then was worse than anything we had ever faced but our mutual destruction kept us at bay. That being said, if North Korea finally achieves the capability to attack the United States, then combined with their government’s talk that they would attack the United States immediately, we would be legally justified in conducting a pre-emptive strike with proportionality. We must rely on our leaders to be honest with us if they receive solid intelligence that North Korea has the capability and intends to attack us. At that point, destruction of their capability to do us harm I believe would be justified but it must be proportionate to the threat. So if there is one missile silo that has the capability to reach us, the destruction of that missile silo would be what is legally allowed rather than a full invasion of the country. This is different than Israel’s attack on Iraq because Iraq did not have the capability for nuclear arms yet and the facility was functioning in compliance with all U.N. regulations. My question is if we destroy the one missile silo but the government of North Korea continues to be hostile towards us and will just build another one, would our over throwing of that government be justifiable under international law to finally end the so called imminent threat? What about it fitting under the National Security Strategy of the United States (2002) sometimes affectionately referred to as the Bush Doctrine?

  3. It is hard to say what exactly needs to be done and whether the U.S. needs to be more proactive in response to Kim Jong Un’s threat. It would probably make more sense for the U.S. to address this issue privately rather than show Kim Jong Un that we give his video any credence. Of course North Korea is a threat to the U.S. and its allies, but I am not convinced that pre-emptive military action is the best route to take at this point as according to CNN, U.S. officials say they don’t believe North Korea is in a position to strike the United States at the moment. In the same vein, these threats should not be taken lightly.

    I think that White House Chief of Staff, McDonough said it best when he remarked that the actions of North Korea “are actions that don’t connote strength, but rather connote some kind of weakness and frankly outlandish behavior.”

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