Since decades, North Korean Nuclear program has been under the critical eye of the globe. Despite various international efforts to shut down North Korea’s nuclear program under the guidelines of Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the global powers have been unable to achieve an effective result. North Korea’s official withdrawal from NPT, further signaled the emerging threat the international system could face.

Trump administration is assertive that if China does not support US efforts to minimalize North Korea’s potential threats, U.S. would act unilaterally to ensure peace in the international system. While, China’s close proximity with North Korea complicates the situation, and also showcases that U.S. and China would have to work together to counter North Korea. The U.S. has also entered another scientific milestone through the recent MOAB attack on Afghanistan to contain ISIL threats.

During the famous address of 2002, the former President George W.Bush spoke about the “Axis of Evil”, which constituted North Korea along with other states (such as Iran and Iraq) declaring them as rogue states which posed immediate threat to international peace and security. For North Korea their development of nuclear arsenals only ensures towards their state authority and security, which under the current system is a vital element.

Despite being under various sanctions, North Korea has steadily managed to succeed in building their nuclear capabilities, and have enhanced their respective potential as well. Amongst the multiple atomic bomb tests they have conducted in the previous years, they have also claimed to have advanced themselves in producing hydrogen bombs along with the nuclear ones. All of which were heavily condemned by the international community, as the continuous nuclear tests resultantly, disrupt the regional balances.

Ties amid North Korea and South Korea have been strained since the inception of both states. South Korea has always viewed North Korea’s attempts to enhance their nuclear capacities as an immediate threat to their security. In the recent years, South Korea has been under domestic constrains, and their democratic structure has been under turmoil during President Park Guen Hye’s rule. The recent impeachment of President Hye also portrays how South Korea will be heavily occupied with its own domestic issues. Nonetheless, viewing North Korea’s recent technological achievements in nuclear warfare, South Korean officials have been widely debating on initiating a joint front with U.S. to counter North Korean aggressive designs.

With the recent impeachment of President Hye a new faction has also emerged within South Korean government which favors towards enhancing diplomatic relations with North Korea to ease the tensions and enter a new era of development. Though, it is unclear how strong this faction would deem to be in order to secure their objectives. The U.S. stance towards North Korea’s recent upgrades have remained to be the central focus of the international arena. The new administration has been viewed critically in regards to the dealings in Middle East, South Asia and East Asia.

Various reports have suggested how U.S. military has been occupying itself in conducting military exercises and simulations to contain any immediate North Korean threat. The U.S. officials have also been deliberating to deploy troops within South Korea to eliminate any potential threats. One cannot disregard that their imminent presence in South Korea would essentially misbalance the strategic equilibrium created within Asia.

The US does occupy immense military capabilities and holds enough power to counter emerging threats within the system. In spite of this, North Korea also exercises enough military capacity to ignite a nuclear war. Unlike other U.S. interventions, North Korea does possess the nuclear capabilities and any misstep would be detrimental for the whole world. To further legitimize the strengthening of their nuclear arsenals, North Korean officials have condemned the U.S. bombings on Syria. Justifying their validated right to protect its states sovereignty by enhancing its nuclear capabilities.

Apart from that, Chinese and Russian stance is essential in dealing with North Korea. China has maintained cordial relations with North Korea and the trading connections amongst both entities cannot be disregarded. On the other hand, reports of Russian assistance in aiding North Korea’s nuclear program have also been reported by various analysts.  As both states share close borders with North Korea, further implicates how both states realize that a volatile neighboring state would affect their respective state securities. The deployment of U.S. troops in South Korea would not favor China’s position in the region.

This advancement further sparked fears of a nuclear conflict between both entities (North Korea and U.S.). Early onset, the Trump administration maintained and remained vocal about containing North Korea’s hostile ambitions. Within last month US has conducted two major bombings in hostile areas of the globe. With the deployments of the troops within the South Korean peninsula and Japan. North Korean officials have responded that any attacks upon the northern soil would be destructive for US. Declaring to target US bases within South Korea if the situation demands it.

Analyzing the complicated threads of the scenario; as being under the direct fire of any retaliatory attacks from the North Korea, the officials within South Korea have maintained that US should ask for a prior consent from its military ally before stepping into a nuclear war with the North. Japan’s pacifist stance in regards to developing nuclear weapons and the increasing stockpile of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal has only resulted in the intensification of U.S.-Japanese relations. As Japan has prioritized in strengthening its economies and has favored to enhance its security under the US umbrella of extended deterrence. A different alliance seems to be emerging between US and Japan, however, for others the recent entanglements of U.S. and North could trigger a conflict involving the three major players; U.S., China and Russia.

China on the other hand, has also maintained that both states need to deescalate the tensions and opt towards a more diplomatic approach.  The deployment of US troops in South Korean Peninsula and  Vice President Mike Pence recent visit to the Demilitarized Zone (between North and South Korea) further escalates the preexisting tensions, and resultantly, steering other actors to retaliate in response. With the intensified involvement of US in the South Korean peninsula, North Korea also conducted a massive military parade to showcase their military strength.

A traditional show of power to display that if U.S in any way opts towards conducting a preemptive strike against North Korea, they will retaliate back with full force against its aggressors. Recent reports have also suggested that Russian forces have also been deployed near their border with North Korea. The fear of a nuclear warfare has been heightened, as every latest nuclear test acts as a ticking bomb towards an escalated warfare in the region; posing the question that are we on the verge of World War III?.

DISCLAIMER:The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.

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Kinza Arif is currently attached with Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR) and graduating in International Relations from Bahria University.