South China Sea: North Korean Missiles and Man-Made Islands

Event Date: 

Thursday, June 1, 2017 - 12:00am

Event Date Details: 

Further Reading:

North Korea launches missile - report. (2017, March 05). Retrieved March 07, 2017, from

Kube, C. (n.d.). North Korea Fired Five Missiles, And One Failed To Launch. Retrieved March 07, 2017, from

Johnson, A., Kube, C., & Kim, S. (2017, March 07). U.S. begins shipping controversial anti-missile system to South Korea. Retrieved March 07, 2017, from north-korean-missile-launches-n729846

Thaad: US begins deploying missile defense system in South Korea. (2017, March 07). Retrieved March 07, 2017, from

List of aircraft carriers by country. (2017, March 06). Retrieved March 07, 2017, from

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson transits the South China Sea. The ship and its carrier strike group are on a western Pacific deployment as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of U.S. 3rd Fleet.

The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson transits the South China Sea. The ship and its carrier strike group are on a western Pacific deployment as part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led initiative to extend the command and control functions of U.S. 3rd Fleet.


By Connor Salvo

Recent events in the South China Sea and in North Korea have raised concerns over the stability of a region that has a large amount of the world’s commerce traveling through it via shipping lanes; however, these concerns extend far beyond North Korea’s nuclear capabilities but concern the US and China in a struggle for power over the vast region.

The recent firing of medium-range missiles by North Korea is of greater concern now more than ever considering that one of the missiles that was fired by North Korea recently had a projected range that places it’s striking distance just outside of the UK and the US. These missile launches have given the US reason to deploy the THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, which China is opposed to supposedly because of the system’s long range radar capabilities that could potentially weaken China’s Nuclear deterrence.

However, it’s well known that the US already has radar systems in Japan that are capable of detecting the launch of and intercontinental ballistic missile in China. It’s more likely that China is opposing the establishment of these missile systems because if China does not oppose the establishment of all military forces and systems in the regions surrounding the country, then this may be viewed as an allowance of the establishment of US power.

This would go against China’s agenda in the South China Sea. In establishing militarized islands in the regions, it is undeniable that China is contesting other nations in the region as well as the United States’ role in the world as a police force. For those who contest the claim that the US military is such a police force, consider our investment in aircraft carriers alone: The US has in its arsenal 10 aircraft carriers in service at this moment with Italy coming in second with only two aircraft carriers; no other great nuclear power has invested so much in a system meant to expand the reach of military power globally.

The Chinese government has indeed chosen an ideal time to challenge the United States’ claim to this international power with these militarized islands as the Trump administration is clearly aiming to make the US more isolationist economically and militarily. For instance, the Trump administration has brought into question the stability of NATO by claiming that the US will be less involved if countries are unwilling to contribute more forces to the alliance.

If NATO, and in turn the United States’ role as a police force, is being even slightly compromised by these off-hand comments, what is there to stop China from laying claim to these shipping lanes? Only the threat of nuclear proliferation by the hands of the North Korean missile program. This is where the greatest concerns arise that could have global implications, both economically with these shipping lanes as well as militarily with the threat of war with either North Korea or China.

I find it easy for the US to act within its historical role as a police force and the Chinese government to view this action as an intolerable flexing of power just off its border. To put it in other words, when does our unique military police force transform to one that is viewed by other countries as an invading force?

Within this complex analysis proposed there is a unifying theme that I must address: these seemingly unrelated events are interrelated politically, militarily, and economically. They have the potential of affecting the lives of every being in the globe if these events result in war between two superpowers. It is this political tug-of-war, this maintenance of economic security, and this deterrent use of military technology and power that are interrelated that is characteristic of globalization.

I’m sure there are, among other things, cultural and historic factors that I am not considering that also play a key role in these events. Only in considering as many of these unique perspectives together and their effects on one another can we begin to come up with solutions somewhat beneficial to all parties involved, and clearly the analysis presented above only acts as an adequate beginning to this analysis.