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North Korea’s New Base in China Explained

In early February of 2022, the U.S. identified an underground base that North Korea established approximately 15 miles from China. The base is suspected to house long-range ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missiles) and only further recognizes North Korea’s intention of using more physical means as an indirect deterrence to foreign countries. The intense increase of missile testing has many actors concerned about the repeal of North Korea’s 2017 self moratorium of long-range ballistic missiles. Although initially created to open communications and promote a healthier relationship with the United States, there has been little change in foreign policy since. Even with more conversations occurring during Donald J. Trump’s presidency, the United State’s relationship with North Korea has barely changed. Due to the lack of improved communication, North Korea has relied on past history and utilized the expression of force to allocate the attention of the United States.

The base itself is located underground as many of North Korea’s other bunkers and assets have formerly been hidden. As opposed to competing countries, North Korea has a significantly weaker air force and defense and thus has historically compensated by developing their bases in locations harder to locate. “North Korea began taking its military assets deep underground in 1962 after it suffered devastating losses from superior American air power during the 1950-53 Korean war” (Sang-Hun, 2022). North Korea is estimated to have about 6,000 to 8,000 underground facilities which allow them to maintain secrecy in their operations and make it difficult for neighboring countries to destroy their bases with stealth jets or conventional missiles. 

So why now? The best time to gather the attention of a foreign nation is “when the world can least afford the instability” (Sang-Hun, 2022). Currently, the international community is still suffering or only just now recovering from the economic hardships that accompanied the Covid-19 pandemic, Ukraine and Russia are engaged in hostile militaristic relations, neighboring country South Korea will be electing their next president in a year, and the world’s attention is surrounding the Beijing Olympics. As a result, the United States will be forced to peacefully acknowledge North Korea’s military testing and respond in a more neutral diplomatic manner.

 In order to encourage this diplomatic manner, the base was selected to be in China. The location itself serves as a natural deterrence as the United States will most likely hesitate to attack China even if the intent is solely to hinder militaristic operations that will harm the United States. This cooperation between North Korea and China is supported by the Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty, which promotes either country to take the necessary behavior needed to protect the other from any possibility of attacks that may come from other nations and other actors. 

Although the intentions of the base can be solely presumed to be for strategic militaristic positioning, many have presumed that it is North Korea’s attempt at providing pressure towards the United States to alleviate the ever-worsening sanctions against them. President Biden has agreed to meet with North Korea’s president, Kim Jung-Un, if he agrees on complete denuclearization, which does not appear to be happening anytime in the near future. 

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