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Every once in a while, over here in the Western world, we get a report that North Korea has conducted a missile test. That sounds scary, but we generally don’t do anything about it over here because, like their military parades, it’s just a display of power. So what was so special about the U.S. military reporting that they had tracked a North Korean Intercontinental Ballistic Missile on July 4? Well, that’s kind of a long story, but we’ll try our best to keep it tight.

Who is North Korea?

You’ve probably heard of the place, but in order to understand this whole thing, you need to understand what the country itself is like. North Korea is a totalitarian regime lead by the supreme leader, Kim Jon-Un. If that sounds like nothing else in the world today, that’s because it is. North Korea is a nation unto itself; everything from the media to the people is state-controlled. The country is cut off from the rest of the world and the regime is known for violating the human rights of their people. Basically, you don’t mess with North Korea and that’s exactly what they want to be known for.

They also have a crazy-well-equipped military. Most of their national resources are funneled into military operations and demonstrations. They have a feared nuclear program and the largest standing army in the world. So that’s what we’re dealing with here.

What was different this time?

The demonstration this time was of an intercontinental ballistic missile. In the past (eight other times just this year, in fact), North Korea has conducted nuclear tests with short and medium-range missiles. According to the Pentagon, the missile tested this week has a range of 3,400 miles and is unlike any they’ve seen before. The most concerning part is: with that kind of range, North Korea could launch a missile that would reach Alaska or Hawaii.

For countries like South Korea and China, that are constantly under threat and easily accessible to North Korea, nothing has really changed. The big concern for North America is that now we’re potentially in the cross-hairs too.

Donald Trump and China

So what are people doing about it? Donald Trump seems to be a believer in taking on North Korea in some way, although how he intends to do that is not entirely clear by his Twitter rant.

One of the options available to the rest of the world for curbing North Korea is through economic sanctions. No one wants to go for the confrontational option; that would just end ugly for all parties. As international and constitutional lawyer Darren Thorne pointed out on Your Morning, ‘There are no good solutions.’ Donald Trump is calling on China to make the first move in sanctioning North Korea.

So why isn’t China doing that? Since North Korea does 85 percent of it’s trade with China, the latter definitely has the most power out of anyone to encourage a change in North Korea’s operations. But it’s probably not in China’s best interests to do so. If the North Korean regime were to collapse because of China’s actions, they would have to deal with the consequences like refugees and the complete devastation of a nation. More cynically, China is in an irreplaceable position when it comes to relations between the rest of the world and North Korea. If North Korea were to suddenly no longer be a problem, China might lose its edge with the rest of the world.

The Bottom Line

As Thorne points out, North Korea likes power and they like to win. While they may talk a good game, it’s very unlikely that they could take on the rest of the world and win. If they were to attack a country for real, millions of lives may be lost, but they probably would not come out on top which is a risk they likely don’t want to take.

That being said, North Korea tends to be unpredictable, so we’ll see in time. Right now we’re looking toward the G-20 Summit on the weekend where Donald Trump is expected to raise the issue with the other 19 wealthiest countries in the world.

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