With each passing week, the rhetoric about nuclear war between the United States and North Korea becomes more bold from each side. And this weekend was no different.
There has been increased activity at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in North Korea, leading most experts on the region to believe that we’ll see the country’s sixth and seventh ever nuclear tests by next month. The country’s first nuclear test was conducted in 2006 with its two most recent tests being conducted in January and September of 2016.
The only question seems to be when in April the authoritarian regime decides to do it. As South Korea’s Yonhap News reports, the United States and China are planning to hold diplomatic talks in early April. If North Korea decides to conduct nuclear tests during that period, it would be a major affront to North Korea’s only major ally, China—an ally that has not been terribly happy with the nation’s most recent missile tests.
Another possible time for the tests could be on April 15th, North Korean founder Kim il-Sung’s birthday. While yet another possibility could be April 25th, when North Korea’s Army celebrates its own birthday.
To top it all off, the North Korean propaganda website DPRK Today posted a strange propaganda video on Sunday showing sports sharpshooters taking aim at American troops. The video starts innocuously enough, but slowly devolves into North Korea sports shooters aiming at Western forces.
“However, our deadshots are not fired in shooting ranges or in stadiums only,” a translation of the video by Yonhap News reports.
The video then purports to depict “the hatred and animosity toward the US who is forcing the disaster of a nuclear war on our people after they inflicted the disaster of a brutal war on the Korean people in the 1950s.”
By the end of the video North Korean rockets are launched and hit the American mainland. And it’s not like these propaganda videos are coming out of nowhere. The United States and South Korea continue to conduct joint exercises this month simulating an attack on North Korea.
With those training exercises as a backdrop, American forces continue to prepare its allies for the increased likelihood of war. US General Vincent K. Brook, commander of US forces in South Korea as well as the UN, has warned Australia, a close Five Eyes ally, that North Korea is getting closer in its ability to reach Down Under.
“The assessment was that North Korea ... was now at a point of advanced technology when it came to ballistic missiles that were capable of carrying a single nuclear warhead, that it was an increasing security risk not only to the Korean peninsula but also to our region, including Australia,” Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told The Australian newspaper this weekend.
From an Australian perspective, the North Koreans developing a missile that could hit Seattle (5,134 miles from Pyongyang) or San Francisco (5,588 miles) would also be one that could hit Sydney in the east (5,291 miles) and Perth in the west (4,943 miles).
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has done nothing to calm fears in the region that we’re about to get into a nuclear war, and the near certainty of North Korea conducting tests next month will surely test that chest-thumping.