North Korea Not a Threat Anytime Soon

Members of the Hockaday community discuss concerns over North Korea’s nuclear powers

While there is much uncertainty and leaked information about North Korea being equipped with nuclear weapons, according to Upper School history teacher and former CIA agent Tracy Walder, we should be worried and skeptical about Kim Jong Un. Just not yet.

Leaked information by Colo. Congressman Doug Lamborn concerning the possibility of North Korea obtaining the technology to place nuclear weapons within the head of ballistic missiles fueled fears of a nuclear war.

Megan Hoskins ‘07, an officer in the 303rd Intelligence Squadron—part of the 694th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group currently deployed in South Korea— appeased these apprehensions.

According to Hoskins, North Korea does not have the resources or capabilities to produce a mass number of these weapons as of now, although it might in the future.

“North Korea is somewhat unpredictable, but they do not have the capabilities or the resources to sustain the sort of kinetic conflict necessary to attain their goals,” Hoskins said.

Walder agreed. “At this point we know that the farthest successful missile launch could possibly reach Guam, no farther,” she said, but she also said that there are missiles that have not been tested yet.

Though North Korea is still searching for the best technology, Walder believes these threats fit a pattern that most radical rulers go through in order to legitimize their power. Kim Jong Un has been in power for only about a year and “tend[s] to exhibit escalating behavior on important dates such as their leader’s birthdays, anniversary of their deaths, days they came into power, etcetera,” Walder said.

Aside from the new ruler, the outbreak of nuclear threats fits a behavioral pattern in North Korea’s history. Often North Korea threatens in order to gain aid from other countries, such as trying to convince the U.S. to lift embargos on trade, according to Hoskins.

Junior Jennifer, a boarder from Seoul, South Korea, confirmed that in the past, North Korea has acted radically. Three years ago, for example, North Korea fired upon civilians on a South Korean island.

However, Jennifer said that her family in South Korea and students at Hockaday should not be overly concerned about these threats.

“Personally, I thought that the U.S. was making a bigger deal about it than the South Korean government,” Jennifer said.

Walder tries to keep her students informed while seeing the threats in the correct context.

“The students are incredibly interested in the situation and they are worried by the threats,” she said.

Around the same time these threats made headlines, North Korea’s 50-year armistice with South Korea came to an end, and South Korea elected a new female president, Park Geun-hye, who is more focused on implementing new policies. Kwon believes that North Korea started threatening the U.S. because South Korea did not respond in the way Kim Jong Un expected.

Another act by North Korea captured the United States interests. Kenneth Bae, a 44-year-old Korean-American, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor because of apparent “hostile acts” against the Korean State, at the end of last month. U.S. analysts believe that the North Korean Government is using Bae’s sentencing as a bargaining tool against the U.S.

“The situation we’re experiencing right now with North Korea is not much different from situations we’ve been in before with this nation,” Hoskins said. “North Korea has acquired new capabilities over time which they are threatening to use against their enemies, which may be why their threats seem like a bigger deal now than in the past. However, we have also developed our capabilities over the years and are ready and able to combat any hostile act North Korea attempts to deliver, either to the U.S. or South Korea or any ally for that matter.”

-Claire