The aggressive stance taken by the U.S. against North Korea in recent weeks has prompted the country to demonstrate that it could retaliate against any potential attack by the U.S. Meanwhile, media reports in Japan and the U.S. are fomenting domestic fears of a possible nuclear attack.
MINNEAPOLIS — Soon after the Trump administration took unilateral action against Syria, the focus of U.S. foreign policy quickly shifted thousands of miles away to the isolated, authoritarian government of North Korea – drumming up fears that more U.S. unilateral military action could take place.
The U.S. has so far refrained from taking any actual military action against North Korea, but has made some aggressive pre-emptive moves, including deploying an aircraft carrier – the U.S.S. Vinson – and other naval assets to the Korean Peninsula. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently told reporters at a press conference held in South Korea’s capital of Seoul that military action is “an option on the table.”
While most of the naval strike group is still en route to the peninsula, a guided-missile submarine – the U.S.S. Michigan – arrived in South Korea on Tuesday. The North Korean military held an artillery drill on the same day, a move that Jason Ditz of Antiwar speculated was meant to underscore North Korea’s retaliatory capability should the U.S. attack the country. The drill was held on the anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s army.
Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the country’s ruling party, warned the U.S. against taking military action one day prior to the drill, stating “the United States should not run amok and should consider carefully any catastrophic consequence from its foolish military provocative act. […] What’s only laid for aggressors is dead bodies.” North Korea has also referred to the naval strike group’s deployment as an “extremely dangerous act.”
The U.S. seems aware of the possibility of retaliatory action from North Korea regarding either the arrival of the naval strike group or in the aftermath of a pre-emptive strike, as evidenced by the recent deployment of a THAAD anti-missile system to South Korea. The deployment of the system would allow the U.S. to respond to such a retaliatory attack. China strongly protested its deployment, arguing that its presence would destabilize regional security while also doing nothing to limit or end North Korea’s nuclear program.
Speculation has mounted that the U.S. is set to attack North Korea if the nation conducts another nuclear missile test. South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Moon Sang-gyun to state on Tuesday that “the South Korean and U.S. militaries are fully ready for North Korea’s nuclear test,” implying that such a test is expected to be conducted imminently. This expectation, however, is thus far based only on speculation. North Korea conducted its most recent nuclear test in September of last year.
U.S., Japan ramping up fear-mongering over possible NK attack
Speculation that the U.S. might take military action against North Korea was further fueled by President Donald Trump’s Monday night dinner meeting with hawkish senators Lindsey Graham and John McCain. Following the meeting, Graham stated that Trump is “not going to let this nutjob in North Korea develop a missile with a nuclear weapon on top to hit America. He [Trump] doesn’t want a war any more than I do. But he’s not going to let them get a missile. That’s where they’re headed and China needs to up their game to stop this before it’s too late.”
Another indication that a U.S.-led attack is possible is the increasingly sensational coverage being provided by the U.S. media, as well as the Japanese government, a staunch U.S. ally in the region. On Wednesday, NBC News ran a piece titled “What Should You Do in Case of Nuclear Attack? ‘Don’t Run. Get Inside.” The piece, which references the North Korean “threat” in the first sentence, warns readers that “experts believe America’s missile shield system is far from foolproof” and instructs them that “sheltering in place, beneath as many layers of protection as possible, is the best way to avoid the radiation that would follow a nuclear detonation.”
The NBC News article came as Operation Gotham Shield – an exercise involving FEMA, Homeland Security and a myriad of law enforcement and military agencies – concluded on Wednesday. The exercise consisted of a simulated scenario in which a nuclear weapon is detonated over Manhattan.
Also on Wednesday, a large anti-terror drill took place in Washington, D.C. with the intention of preparing the nation’s capital to respond to a “coordinated terror attack.” The drill coincided with a closed briefing between Trump and the U.S. Senate on North Korea.
On Tuesday, the Japanese government warned its citizens that they may have ten minutes or less to prepare for the arrival of a Japan-bound North Korean nuclear missile. Concerns about such an attack have been building in Japan for months, with schoolchildren holding nuclear evacuation drills in March.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has personally helped to stoke fears, stating in mid-April that North Korea has the capability to deliver missiles loaded with sarin gas to Japan. The fear-mongering has worked, with sales of nuclear shelters and radiation-blocking air purifiers skyrocketing in Japan over the last month.