South Korea says that North Korea could be preparing more missile launches after detail of the isolated nations latest test equivalent to a 6,3 magnitude earthquake emerged over the weekend.
US Secretary of Defence James Mattis said- “any threat will be met with a “massive military response”. President Donald Trump has previously promised “fire and fury”.
Is there any diplomatic solution or is the crisis heading to an inevitable war?
Defence and diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus answers your questions on North Korea and how the situation might be resolved.
Will there be war?
One certainly hope not. It’s hard to imagine any conflict breaking out since the risk of escalation to all out war would be very likely in these highly charged times. The US is signalling strongly that the North Koreans should do nothing that might risks conflicts.
All out war would be catastrophic in terms of lives lost. It might potentially involve the use of nuclear weapons the first time since the closing stages of the Second World War which could set a terrifying new precedent in international affairs.
At its close, after terrible destruction, North Korea would no longer exist. That is a given hence the hope that the Pyongyang regime is rational and understands the risks involved.
Who would be the key players and what role would they play in this situation?
Initially it would be North Korea versus the rest South Korea and the US certainly.Quite what Japan precise role would be is hard to say unless it had been attacked directly but there is a large number of US troops and bases in Japan.
The US would seek diplomatic support from the UN Security Council and failing that, also from its allies. How far they might be involved in practical terms is hard to say. We hope this is just an academic question.
Could armed conflict trigger a global nuclear war?
Unlikely. A regional conflict would be bad enough. Russia, Washington’s NATO allies and so on are not directly implicated. However the big question is if there was conflict, what might China do? Would it effectively intervene as it did in the 1950s to ensure the survival of the North Korean regime or would it remain on the sidelines?
It is linked to Pyongyang by a defensive treaty but this doesn’t guarantee Chinese involvement.
Why can not the US accept North Korea as a nuclear power?
For practical purposes, North Korea is already a nuclear power and has had a small nuclear arsenal for some time. What makes the current crisis more serious is that Pyongyang is now making rapid headway towards a capability to threaten the continental US with a nuclear armed missile. Rolling back North Korea nuclear and missile programmes may no longer be possible. In the future the emphasis may be upon deterence and containment. Practically, the world may have little choice but to reluctantly accept North Korea as a nuclear power. But experts fear the impact this may have on the wider question of nuclear proliferation.