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On The Brink

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BY Barrister Hannatu Musawa

Tensions between the United States of America, Russia, China and North Korea have continued to escalate in recent times. The tension between these nuclear powers – largely over the continuing crisis in the Korean peninsula – has many fearing the outbreak of a global military conflict. With Kim Jong-un continuing his and North Korea’s sabre-rattling with a series of missile launches, nuclear tests and ever-increasing threats to the US – are these indications of a looming World War?

Hostility between the US and North Korea has been building up for months now. In a blatant show of strength recently, two US Air Force fighter jets took off from the US base alongside bombers from Japan and South Korea. These “military drills” came before North Korea announced it is “carefully examining” a plan to target the West Pacific outpost.

North Korea made this terrifying revelation just hours after Donald Trump vowed to meet any threats against America with “fire and fury the likes of which the world has never seen”. Thankfully though, North Korea has since backed down. North Korea has been threatening a break out of nuclear war at any moment. However, most experts believe it would not launch an attack as it would not survive a retaliated strike by the US.

Not too long ago, it seemed like the prospect of war with the likes of Russia and China was ever so apparent. But with the end of the Cold War and collapse of the USSR, the threat of a global war tapered off. However though, with the ongoing tense relationships between the world’s major military players, means the outbreak of another global conflict has been raised higher than ever before.

The aggressive rhetoric’s of both the American president and the North Korean leader are ever-increasing and could trigger a large scale warfare. It is quite unfortunate that both leaders aren’t known to thread with caution. In the past, many believed North Korea with regards to the conflict in the peninsula to be a regional threat. However, that’s no longer the case. North Korea is fast becoming a global threat especially after its latest hydrogen bomb test.

With or without Donald Trump’s help though, Kim Jong-un could easily plunge the planet into its third world war inside a century. Of course this one would be vastly more destructive than the precursor due to the availability of nuclear and sophisticated weaponry. To date Trump has been playing a strong hand, doing, more or less, what President Kennedy did in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, and what President Reagan did in the Cold War in the 1980s.

Like Kennedy and Reagan, Trump could prevail. Yet it is not tricky, neither is it rocket science to see how things could spin out of control. Possibly feeling abandoned and exposed, Kim Jong-Un could loose off a few missiles of his own, maybe towards Japan (already a popular target). True to recent form in Afghanistan (the MOAB job) and Syria, President Trump could retaliate with a “surgical” and “proportionate” strike on some North Korean facility.

Then what? North Korea sinks a South Korean war ship or chucks a missile over the border and it kills American troops. Trump retaliates by bombing government buildings in North Korea. The North Korean leader sees his regime lethally threatened. Feeling imperiled, he unleashes his huge conventional forces, supported by Chinese and Russian diplomacy, hoping to get the Americans to back off and leave him in power.

If and when American troops are killed, the US automatically will be drawn in. China will undoubtedly be faced with gigantic floods of North Korean refugees. What happens if Japanese, NATO and other troops fight to defend South Korea? What would Vladimir Putin’s Russia do? Thus the Second Korean War would have begun, with the Third World War not far behind.

If an all-out war breaks out as a result of the current tension, for sure, the costs in human life would be unprecedented. Economies will be shattered and financial as well as humanitarian crisis will hit the world adversely. Whereas Germany, Russia and Japan rebuilt after World War II, and the two Koreas did so after the horrific wars on their territory that ended in the 1950s, there will be no rebuilding on the decimated toxic nuclear winter that may be left behind in Japan and South Korea this time round.

President Trump has said that since America has so many nuclear weapons, why is it not able to use them? Clearly, Trump thinks using nuclear weapons is a strong possibility. However, our world is more interdependent than ever before in more ways. The problem with using nuclear weapons is that even a limited attack of nuclear bombs can throw up so much dust into the atmosphere to create a global nuclear winter that could cause a worldwide famine that could end up killing billions of people.

Unfortunately, a decision to launch nuclear weapons is something that is solely in the hands of President Trump. If he gives the order, there is nothing and no one that can stop him. We all know how unstable Trump’s personality and temperament is. He could decide to throw caution to the winds and deploy the US nuclear arsenal to North Korea. The only solution is to take away this power to launch nuclear weapons by the decision of a single person.

Also, China has a leading role to play in diffusing the current tension between the US, North Korea and the world at large. If China, which already has a full nuclear bomb program, simply took over the North Korean defense, moved all of the nuclear weapons out of North Korea in a verifiable way and stationed them on the Chinese side of their shared border with a guarantee to protect the sovereignty of North Korea, this would diffuse the current situation.

Preventing WWIII will also take governments around the world to have a rethink about politics and work towards world peace. Governments, national leaders, international organizations needs to come together and diplomatically come to agreements in making the world a safer place for humanity. Never in the whole of human history has there been a bigger powder keg; nor men (Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un) so strange playing with a box of matches near to it.



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