Opinion: Weakened allies and unchecked escalation

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could threaten global security on a scale not seen by this generation. Picture: Korean Central News Agency (via AP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could threaten global security on a scale not seen by this generation. Picture: Korean Central News Agency (via AP)

North Korea is flying rockets over Japan, it claims to have mounted a hydrogen bomb on to an inter-continental ballistic missile and it may have conducted a sixth nuclear test.

Mikaela Mahony is a cadet journalist in north-west Sydney.

Mikaela Mahony is a cadet journalist in north-west Sydney.

The threat of an attack from North Korea feels like the first tangible threat of my generation to Australia.

There is a part of me that gets on with my day-to-day life  – and a part of me that is terrified of a nuclear war. The North Korean Taepodong 2 weapon of mass destruction has the ability to travel 6000 kilometres –that’s enough to hit Darwin. 

I was born in the 1990s, so I have only lived namely through the civil war in Afghanistan and the war on terror against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. And while Australian soldiers have been involved, I have never felt a direct threat to my own life. 

But I do now.

The Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union never engaged directly in full-scale armed combat. This time it feels less ‘cold’ as North Korea continue to threaten with their ‘testing’. 

It was suggested to me by a friend following the US and South Korean retaliation on the North Korean border, that the real fear for us in Australia isn’t North Korea’s ability to hit the US with a nuclear weapon. It’s the very real possibility of weakened allies and unchecked escalation in the Korean peninsula that could spiral out of control. 

If US President Donald Trump does initiate strong military action, will North Korea retaliate by hitting South Korea destabilising the area?

South Korea and Japan both rely on the US for protection. They do not have their own nuclear weapons. 

If North Korea attacked Seoul or Tokyo, would the US retaliate hitting North Korea knowing a counter-retaliation would hit the US? Is Trump willing to sacrifice Alaska, Hawaii or Guam for Tokyo?

What frightens me is the way Kim Jong-un continues to act recklessly without consequences. The way I see this escalating is North Korea acting more recklessly by perhaps sinking a South Korean naval vessel or creating trouble in a demilitarised zone. Sparking the other side to hit first so they can act in self-defence. 

We think about terrorism as a day-to-day threat. Now it seems a nuclear war could also occur at anytime.

  • Mikaela Mahony is a reporter for Fairfax Media in north-west Sydney.