Undated photo from North Korean News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visiting a Korean People's Army unit, in an undisclosed location, North Korea. Photo released August 2017. (Balkis Press/Abaca Press/TNS)

Coltrain: History warns us about North Korean conflict

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Are the rising tensions between North Korea and America creating a 2nd Cold War?

By Travis Coltrain
travis-coltrain@uiowa.edu

The words “North Korea” have been plastered across world news recently with the nation’s constant disapproval of American sanctions in reaction to its recent ballistic-missile test that flew over Japan. The publicity has seemed to do the opposite of raising fear, as the public pokes fun at this constant playground fight between President Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

That attitude can be dangerous as growing tensions between these two countries have almost seemed to send the U.S. into a second Cold War.

The Cold War may have reached one of its peaks during the Cuban Missile Crisis; in 1962, U.S. intelligence discovered that the Soviets were building medium-range missile sites in Cuba. Later that week, President Kennedy went on national television to demand that the bases be dismantled and missiles removed.

Following that, the world seemed to quickly heat up as tensions boiled between the two superpowers; humanity tottered on the brink of nuclear war.

Following Kennedy’s speech, the Soviets transmitted a proposal for ending the crisis: the missile sites would be removed in exchange for a U.S. pledge to not invade Cuba. However, the next day, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev upped the ante by publicly calling for the dismantlement of U.S. nuclear missile bases in Turkey.

As the Kennedy administration worked on negotiations, a U-2 spy plane was shot down over Cuba, and its pilot, Maj. Rudolf Anderson, was killed. Knowing an attack could mean nuclear war, Kennedy forbade a military retaliation unless any more surveillance planes were fired upon.

On Oct. 28, six days after the start of the missile crisis, Khrushchev announced his government’s intent to dismantle and remove all offensive Soviet weapons in Cuba. Secretly, the U.S. also agreed that it would dismantle all U.S.-built medium-range ballistic missiles, which had been deployed in Turkey.

Khrushchev’s request to remove U.S. missile bases in Turkey is similar, yet almost small in comparison to Kim’s demand for a U.S. military-free South Korea. In late August, South Korean and U.S. militaries began a joint training week.

The annual joint exercises, named Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, came at a time when both Washington and Pyongyang are on heightened alert, raising the specter of a mishap or overreaction to these exercises. While they are annual, this year, North Korea saw them as a threat.

This could be the cause of North Korea’s recent ballistic-missile test over Japan; the North Korean test was done during the same time as Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, which listed from Aug. 21-31.

While a US soldier has not been killed, a ballistic-missile test can and should be seen as a direct threat to not only American safety but the safety of the world. The North Korean government has reached out numerous times for compromise.

In June, North Korean diplomat Kye Chun Yong said during an interview on India’s TV network WION, “Under certain circumstances, we are willing to talk in terms of the freezing of nuclear testing and missile testing.”

However, Trump and his administration have shown no signs of wanting to discuss anything with the North Korean government. On Aug. 30, Trump tweeted, “The U.S. has been talking to North Korea, and paying them extortion money, for 25 years. Talking is not the answer!”

That these two are at arms with each other without actually attacking one another states the obvious. As this playground fight of dominance builds between Trump and Kim, the world plunges further into its second Cold War.

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