On March 29, CNN reported somewhat breathlessly that "North Korea has entered a "state of war' with neighboring South Korea," which ignores the reality that the state of war between the two countries has existed since 1950, although an armistice was agreed to in 1953. Fitful efforts to negotiate a formal peace treaty have continued for 60 years, leaving the United Nations Command in place to the present. North Korea has previously rejected the armistice at least five other times, in 1994, 1996, 2003, 2006, and 2009.
Americans Should Be Afraid of Missiles that Can't Reach America
Exaggerating the CNN story, the Newsweek/Daily Beast editors gave it this scary headline -- "North Korea Prepares Strike on U.S.' -- that had no meaningful basis in reality. Amplifying the fear the next day, NBC News ran a disappointingly low-key story under the ramped-up headline:
North Korea puts rockets on standby as
US official warns regime is no 'paper tiger'
Peter Hart of FAIR has explored the one-sidedness of American media coverage and its reality-distorting effect in detail.
One reason the North Koreans moved their missile was in response to the March 28 U.S. fly-bys along the South Korean border with B-2 bombers quite capable of carrying enough nuclear weapons to obliterate North Korea and set off nuclear winter around the world. Just because these fly-bys with B-2s, B-52s and other potentially nuclear-armed aircraft were part of military exercises the U.S. and South Koreans put on every year (sometimes using a pretend scenario of invading the North), the U.S. maintains the North shouldn't think of them as in the least provocative. The B-2s flew from a base in Missouri.
Another North Korean reason for moving their missile might have been the American plans to conduct missile defense drills with Japan and South Korea on an on-going basis. This plan follows the "signal" sent earlier in the winter when the U.S. announced plans to increase its anti-missile missile deployment in Alaska and along the Pacific west coast.
China Votes for Sanctions, but Remains Wild Card
On March 7, the United Nations Security Council unanimously (15-0) approved a resolution brokered by the U.S. and Chine, imposing new economic sanctions on North Korea as punishment for its announcement on February 12, confirming its third nuclear weapons test. While many nations detected seismic activity that they interpreted to be an underground nuclear explosion, and while the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty monitors said the tremor had "clear explosionlike characteristics," there was no detection of radiation sufficient to confirm that the explosion was nuclear.
North Korea's admission that it had used a "miniaturized nuclear device with greater explosive force than previously" was seen by some as defiance of Chinese advice against such a test. The Chinese had promised that North Korea would "pay a heavy price" if it went ahead with the test. That price apparently includes China's cooperation with the U.S. on setting sanctions.
Complicating the response to the test announcement, there are few sanctions left to apply to North Korea, perhaps the world's second most-sanctioned country after Israel [the U.N. has voted 66 sanctions against Israel, all or most of which Israel ignores with little consequence]. The new North Korea sanctions bar all nations from selling the North expensive jewelry, yachts, luxury automobiles, and racing cars.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice said that, "taken together, these sanctions will bite, and bite hard."
That will depend on China, which has previously helped North Korea get around sanctions, seeming to have less concern for the country across the border having nuclear weapons than having it devolve into instability and chaos. So the current round of sanctions, like earlier ones, will have limited impact unless China should decide to limit its oil shipments, banking services, and other ongoing aid to North Korea.
Anyone Ready for an Act of War, like a Naval Blockade?
Another factor limiting the effectiveness of sanctions has been the unwillingness of the U.S. and other nations to enforce sanctions with a naval blockade, which would be an act of war. And it would be an act of war against a Chinese ally, enforced in the waters off the Chinese mainland.