North Korea takes time to celebrate, but nuclear threats continue - Today's news, tomorrow's lesson - 15 April 2013

Monday, April 15, 2013

North Korea

North Korea is today celebrating the 101st anniversary of the birth of its founding father, amid ongoing diplomatic tensions and threats of nuclear war by the secretive communist country.

Tens of thousands of people gathered in North Korean capital Pyongyang to commemorate the birth of Kim Il Sung, the country’s first leader and grandfather of current leader Kim Jong Un. But pressure is mounting on the government to enter talks after it carried out its third nuclear test in February.

The country has been issuing near-daily threats to both the United States and neighboring South Korea, stating that it would carry out pre-emptive nuclear strikes against both countries, as well as Japan. The threats began after the US successfully persuaded the United Nations to introduce sanctions against North Korea as punishment for its nuclear tests.

The US has repeatedly called on Pyongyang to enter talks and honor its international commitments to embark on a program of decommissioning its nuclear weapons. Current international rules allow some nations – especially those in the West, such as Britain, France and the US – to have nuclear weapons, while banning most others.

But the diplomatic stand-off raises the wider question of whether Western nuclear powers should have the right to prevent other countries from developing their own nuclear arms and governing as they see fit.

Today the world awaits North Korea’s next move, but after a period of hostile rhetoric any act of perceived aggression would trigger serious concern.

US Secretary of State John Kerry, who is currently in the final days of a tour of northeast Asia, said any missile launch in the current climate would be a “huge mistake.”

“The United States remains open to authentic and credible negotiations on denuclearization, but the burden is on Pyongyang,” Mr Kerry said. “North Korea must take meaningful steps to show it will honor commitments it has already made.”

South Korea has made repeated peaceful overtures to its neighbor, but the country’s armed forces have been on alert since the North’s latest nuclear tests in February.

While North Korea’s missiles are unlikely to be able to reach the US mainland, it is capable of targeting its neighbor to the south, Japan and US military bases on the Pacific island of Guam.

Questions: 

1.) What do we mean by 'sanctions' in this context? What does the United Nations hope to achieve with this tactic?

2.) In your opinion, should some countries be allowed to have nuclear weapons, but not others? Explain your answer.

3.)If you were living in North Korea, how do you imagine you might feel about the threat of nuclear strikes being launched?

4.) How much do you already know about North Korea and Kim Il Sung? Where could you find out more?

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