North Korea is one of only five officially communist countries left in the world, and it’s certainly one with a confused image. Despite the country being parodied and caricatured in popular media, in reality it is in a dire state, with famines so severe that there are persistent rumours of cannibalism, while the military continue to spend billions on new weapons.

This has spread to encompass nuclear ambitions, which have culminated recently with a third nuclear test in which a ‘miniaturised nuclear device’ was apparently successfully detonated in an underground facility. There are global fears that North Korea is working on building a nuclear device small enough to fit on a missile. These fears are more relevant given that the country also tested a missile in December (under the guise of a ‘space launch’) which had the range to hit Japan. A couple of videos have also been released which show Barack Obama and US soldiers in flames, and a North Korean military officer threatened the USA with ‘miserable destruction’ over routine military exercises.

So are we doomed? I doubt it. Recently it seems even China, North Korea’s principal ally since it entered the Korean War in 1950, has become increasingly irritated with North Korea. A spokesman for China’s state media has said that China was firmly opposed to the third nuclear test undertaken by North Korea. China has become exasperated over North Korea’s continued antagonisation of the USA at a time when China’s focus is on economic domination, not military aggression.

Chinese politicians have largely accepted that the world has changed. The Cold War is over, the market won and continuing a foreign and economic policy forty years out of date serves no one. This lesson has not been learned in North Korea, where a dynasty of dictators has ruled their country. Constant UN sanctions and the will of the leaders themselves have closed off North Korea from any outside influence since 1960. China, on the other hand, is now entirely tied into the global economy, meaning that a war with the USA would lose them trillions in economic terms. Free from this concern, North Korea is possibly a greater threat than China, despite its negligible military strength.

It certainly looks like China will apply pressure to deter North Korea from any further nuclear tests. So we’re probably not all about to die in a nuclear holocaust.

[Bryce Johnston]

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