North Korea said it plans to carry out a “high-level nuclear test” and long-range rocket launches “aimed at the U.S.”
After receiving this alert from the CNN app on my smartphone, my first thought was that the U.S. would be invading Iran in the near future if North Korea makes good on these bellicose plans. The timing is awfully curious, especially with President Obama settling into his second term and establishing his new cabinet and appointed officials. But then I remembered something I learned about North Korea during school that got me thinking more about the situation, and how it may be more than just a hostile, baseless message to the world.
During my time at Syracuse University, I had the pleasure of getting to know another student in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs who had the opportunity to go visit the North Korea-South Korea DMZ border. He had some stunning pictures, including where the actual border is drawn.
The picture displayed the line running through the middle of a small building. When both sides would meet and discuss, they could still remain in their respective countries and not cross to the other side. This student also explained, through these pictures, how North Korea has built many cities but no one lives in them. They apparently light up these cities to give the appearance that the cities are densely populated, when in reality they are not. This article describes a place called Kij'ngdong, where North Korea claims some 200 families live, and which includes all the things one could expect like schools, hospitals, etc. But apparently, South Koreans can see that the town is completely deserted all the time and none of the buildings have windows or subdivided rooms.
North Korea has a hidden food famine, and they often utilize their rocket testing to drawn attention to how poorly the majority of population is living. This past summer, North Korea requested food aid from the United Nations after flooding destroyed many parts of the country. Since Kim Jong-Il died in December 2011, an estimated 20,000 people have died of starvation in South Hwanghae alone. North Korea relies on international food aid because it does not possess the infrastructure to grown enough food to feed its people.
But hey, they have the important thing locked up: Their military is top-notch. The Hwanghae provinces are said to be the most productive parts of the country, supplying food and resources to its million conscript soldiers. Many of these soldiers are deployed along the southern border with South Korea and the capital, Pyonyang.
After learning more about the food crisis in North Korea and the “fake” cities, one can wonder if North Korea is simply trying again to draw attention to itself for the sake of its citizens and obtaining food aid, or if North Korea actually plans to launch rockets with a flight path ending in U.S. territory. It seems absolutely foolish for North Korea to come out and say these things, especially after the launching it conducted in December 2012 with debris falling off the coast of South Korea.
The U.S. should meticulously look further into the threat. If the intentions s and the threats are real, fake cities and food aid will be the least of all our worries.