Cory Van Gilst-Staff Writer
On Sept. 23, the foreign minister of North Korea spoke openly about US and North Korean relations, claiming that the Commander and Chief of the United States had declared war on their country. Ri Yong Ho stated that Trump made a “clear declaration of war” when he tweeted that the leadership of North Korea, Kim Jong Un – referenced as Little Rocket Man in the tweet – might not be around much longer.
The tweet followed a speech that Ri gave at a general assembly of the United Nations a few days prior. In the speech, he portrayed President Trump as the true menace of the international community. Ri went on to say that the president insulted the supreme dignity of North Korea by comparing him to a rocket. This is no doubt a reference to President Trump’s earlier tweets that first likened Kim Jong Un to Little Rocket Man. Ri concluded his speech with: “by doing so, [President Trump] committed an irreversible mistake of making our rockets’ visit to the entire US mainland inevitable all the more.”
The speech set about a fire storm of tweeting by the president. These tweets were then interpreted as a clear declaration of war.
“Because the United States declared war, even if U.S. strategic bombers do not intrude into our air, we will possess the right to respond in self-defense, including the right to launch at a random time and drop [the strategic bomber],” Ri said.
This event coincided with a recent display of air power that took place two days before the foreign minister’s statements. Several US B-1B Lancer bombers and F-15C Eagle fighter escorts flew along the Korean coastline in international airspace. The public was made aware of this flyby as a result of North Korea being unable to detect the planes. The Pentagon reasoned a show of force would be pointless if it were not seen, and disclosed the information.
In a press conference held shortly after Ri’s remarks, the White House made it very clear that they had not declared war on North Korea.
“We have not declared war on North Korea and frankly the suggestion of that is absurd,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
Sanders went on to explain that there is never an appropriate situation to shoot down foreign nation’s planes when traveling in international airspace. The Pentagon also issued its thoughts on the most recent developments in the ongoing tension with the hermit kingdom.
“If North Korea does not stop their provocative actions, you know, we will make sure that we provide options to the president to deal with North Korea,” stated spokesman Colonel Robert Manning.
As one would expect, many members of the international community are attempting to deescalate the situation. China’s ambassador to the U.N. warned that a conflict was in nobody’s interest. Other members of the U.N. are actively trying to prevent “fatal misunderstandings” from taking place.
U.N. members and international ambassadors are not the only ones who are concerned with the increasingly belligerent conversations taking place between the two nations. Dordt students, including senior Annika Henckel, have also expressed concerns over the matter.
“I think it is frightening that something could happen,” she said. “It would be one of the first wars in a long time that would take place in our own country.” Other students feel the same way, believing that North Korea would be the first to strike if tensions reached a boiling point.
Students like Josh Bootsma, on the other hand, feel that there is no real threat from North Korea.
“I think North Korea understands that if they do anything to truly provoke military action,” he said, “they wouldn’t last very long without support from China or any other nation.”
China declared earlier that it would not stand by North Korea if it attacked the United States out of aggression. When asked about the likelihood of North Korea attacking, Political Science professor Jeff Taylor said, “I’m skeptical that they have the capability or the intention of doing that.”
Taylor also believes the rhetoric coming from both sides is inflammatory and irresponsible.
“Whether it is talk of nuclear or conventional war,” he said, “it seems like serious leaders of government ought to be talking in a more serious way.” While he understands President Trump’s intentions, he does not see them as helpful in the long run.
Despite North Korea’s most recent threats of military action, South Korean officials claim that the mannerisms being displayed by the military forces opposite the border do not indicate any action that would give them life. For now, the conflict between the US and North Korea looks to remain a war of words and nothing more. President Trump and other US officials will continue to call for harsher sanctions on North Korea from the U.N. Meanwhile, North Korea will go on to claim that their need for nuclear weapons is one of self-defense against the actions of the US. In the midst of the political tension, there are bound to be more twists and turns in the saga between the two nations.