Talks of Russia have dominated the news cycle, but another nation trying to gain the attention of the world is North Korea. North Korea is working to assert itself as a global nuclear power by continuing to provoke the United States and its allies by test-firing ballistic missiles.
“The main threat that North Korea poses is from its development of nuclear weapons and the ability to deliver those over the long distances,” said Richard Bush, director of the Center for East Asia Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution.
In “two- to- five years” North Korea will be able to launch a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the continental United States, according to Bush.
Currently, North Korea can use nuclear missiles to hit its neighbors --Japan and South Korea -- and hit US bases stationed in Japan.
“North Korea is not a transparent regime. It doesn’t get the United States and it doesn’t understand South Korea. It can be quite reckless and is liable to get more reckless,” Bush added.
But the rogue nation-state still lacks crucial engineering skills. North Korea cannot successfully put nuclear weapons on Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles and it has not mastered the technology of ensuring that nuclear weapons do not burn up after re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.
“The situation has been stable so far, because the United States has an asymmetric advantage, but as that advantage goes away it frees North Korea perhaps to do things it never considered before,” Bush said.
The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) that the U.S needs to watch North Korea closely.
"They are being led by a leader who is just not respectful of the rights of its own citizens and is threatening its neighbors," said Cardin.
Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) also believes the U.S should take the threat of Kim Jong Un's nuclear program seriously.
"The North Korean regime is completely unhinged, they've long been unhinged," he said. “I think we should all be concerned about it and somebody who is unhinged as a North Korean dictator we should all be concerned about and so should the Chinese, the Russians and others,” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
According to Bush, in order to deter North Korea’s provocations, the United States, China, Russia and affected countries in the region need to work together and put pressure on Kim Jong Un to get him to change the direction of their nuclear program.
However, Bush acknowledges this task can difficult, since China helps prop up North Korea, and the U.S. is a strong ally of South Korea. Recently the U.S. helped place a missile defense system in South Korea to help the country against the North and that move heightened tensions with China.
Kim Jong Un’s half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, was recently assassinated at a Malaysian airport. The assassins used a VX nerve agent, which is classified as a weapon of mass destruction by the United Nations.
At the Conference on Disarmament at the United Nations in Geneva on Tuesday, the South Korean Foreign Minister warned the international community that the assassination should be a “wake-up call.” South Korea say Kim Jong Un ordered the killing of his half-brother.
“Namely this impulsive, unpredictability, trigger-happy and brutal regime is ready and willing to strike anyone, anytime anywhere, “ said Yun Byung-se, the South Korean Foreign Minister.
"They have the capacity, they're trying to bring down our democratic system of government," he said. They're interfering with our elections, they're interfering with European elections, they've already invaded Ukraine, part of that country under its control."
During the presidential campaign, Mr. Trump said he would be willing to talk with the Kim Jong Un to try and convince the dictator to stop his nuclear ambitions. And according to a new Wall Street Journal report, the White House is considering the possibility of using direct military action to counter the threat of North Korea.