NORTH KOREA VS THE USA
THE US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have been swapping insults and threats for a while now, but what’s behind it all? And is it all just talk or is there a very real risk of nuclear war? What’s going on, then?
North Korea has angered the world by carrying out illegal tests of nuclear weapons. The nation has also tested missiles that could reach as far as the US, although it’s not clear how well the technology works. North Korea doesn’t have any weapons that could reach the UK.
American leader Donald Trump has said that the world is sitting by instead of punishing North Korea.
Kim Jong-un and Trump have been threatening military action, but they have also both resorted to name-calling. Kim has called Trump “mentally deranged”, while Trump has described his opponent as a “madman”.
What does North Korea want?
North Korea’s opponents, such as America, South Korea and Japan, are worried because they think that North Korea is being aggressive and may launch weapons towards them.
But knowing what Kim Jong-un really wants is very difficult, as North Korea is one of the most secretive countries in the world (see right). One theory is that Kim would be able to get away with much more – including a potential invasion of South Korea – if he had nuclear weapons. That’s because countries like the US would be scared to defend South Korea if there was the possibility of a nuclear attack against them.
It’s also possible that Kim wants North Korea to be respected by the rest of the world, and thinks that having nuclear weapons would give him that respect.
Is there likely to be a nuclear war?
In a word, no. It’s 72 years since the US dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan at the end of World War 2, and they are still the only ones ever used in war. The US has so many nuclear weapons that it could destroy every city in North Korea, and Kim and his advisers are well aware of that. The war of words will almost certainly go on for a long time, but that’s about as far as anyone really expects things to go.
Who has nuclear weapons?
Officially, the US, Russia, China, the UK and France. However, India and Pakistan both have nuclear weapons and Israel is widely believed to have them.
The Treaty On The Non-Proliferation Of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) has been signed by almost every country in the world and is supposed to stop countries from developing nuclear weapons. North Korea pulled out of it in 2003.
What do we know about North Korea?
The short answer is: not much. Few media organisations and tourists are allowed in, and can only go to certain places. It’s even difficult for North Koreans to know what’s going on, as they can only watch or listen to government-controlled TV and radio, and can’t use the internet. People are punished harshly for watching any unauthorised foreign films or shows.
North Korea is an incredibly poor country, and a family would consider themselves to be quite well off if they owned a bicycle. Although the food situation has improved since a famine in the ’90s killed half a million people, many people still do not get enough nutrients. Healthcare and sanitation are very poor, meaning many children get diarrhoea and miss school.
The most recent UN report into human rights in the country found “widespread” abuses of rights, including an “almost complete denial of the right to freedom of thought”. There is also no freedom of movement, so people can’t travel freely within North Korea and almost nobody is allowed to go abroad.
Punishments are harsh for even very mild criticism of the government. There are up to 120,000 people in political prison camps, and prisoners are often executed for minor offences.
US President Donald Trump (left) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un
These Western tourists were forced to bow to the statues of former leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il (Kim Jong-un’s grandad and dad) in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital
North Korean students take part in a protest against the US and Donald Trump