By Ramya Kannan
At his first stop in the four-nation Asia tour, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence asserted that North Korea’s recent actions could potentially spearhead a campaign of retaliation to defend U.S. allies. Pence’s statement that the U.S.’s patience was being tested came in the wake of a failed attempt to launch a missile by North Korea. Though the launch failed, it has forced North Korea’s neighbours into full defence mode, subsequently ruffling U.S. feathers.
Mike Pence’s symbolic visit to the Demilitarised Zone between North and South Korea was meant to indicate that the U.S. was keen to stand in support of its allies in the unstable region. Following a large display of missiles in Pyongyang and the failed missile test, the situation has become tense as officials state that the nations involved are on the brink of war. While Pence stated that U.S. actions in Syria and Afghanistan should be seen as evidence of their resolve to deal with situations that threaten the world order, North Korea seems equally inclined towards not backing down. It is believed that North Korea will continue to test its ballistic missiles, even as the U.S. declares the end of the era of strategic patience.
The U.S, along with its allies and China plans to initiate a set of responses beginning with harsher economic sanctions, according to Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster. This could include an oil embargo, interception of cargo ships, a global ban on North Korean airlines, and punishing Chinese banks which continue engagement with Pyongyang. The United States’ relations with China and Japan in other spheres like trade are also likely to be affected based on what kind of action the two Asian giants take to limit North Korea. China’s decision to stop coal exports from North Korea in February led to a more compliant approach by President Trump regarding China’s treatment of its currency. A similar linking of other arenas of engagement with military actions is not very far-fetched.
Involvement of China and Japan
In their mission to stop North Korea’s seemingly reckless weapon expansion, President Trump has appealed to China to take active measures. It has been clearly established that the U.S. will deal with the problem on its own if China refuses to comply. In response, the Chinese President reiterated their aim to maintain peace and stability in the region by denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, and to ensure that all disagreements are peacefully resolved.
Japan, on the other hand, has explicitly shown allegiance to the U.S. attempt to stop North Korean testing by sending warships that will join U.S. aircraft carrier strike group. The move is intended to display force to the North Korean government and can be seen as a follow up to recently-held joint exercises between the U.S., Japanese and South Korean naval forces for increased defence in the region.
Possibility of war?
North Korea responded to the United States’s intervention in its military program by warning that any steps to aggravate the situation in the region could lead to “catastrophic consequences”. Rumours that the missile launch failed because of a cyber attack by the Trump administration could exacerbate the already strained state of affairs.
Featured Image Source: CNBC