US President Donald Trump’s sudden strike on Syria and Washington’s doubling down on aggressive military posturing has led to wide speculation that Pyongyang could be the next target for unilateral action.
Watch: Massive military parade in Pyongyang
Even though the administration has indicated that military option is among the options under review, there are many signs that North Korea is not Syria – as military action against the former carries far greater risks.
1. Why can’t the US attack North Korea like it did Syria?
The Korean Peninsula technically remains in a state of war. Fighting halted on July 27, 1953 under an armistice signed between Washington and Beijing. If the US initiated an attack, it would break the treaty endorsed by the United Nations.
2. What are the most important differences between North Korea and Syria?
While Syria is believed to have pursued nuclear weapons, North Korea’s nuclear weapons capabilities have matured in recent years. Pyongyang has conducted five nuclear tests and claims it has successfully “miniaturised” nuclear warheads – though such claims have never been independently verified. It experienced a series of embarrassing failures while launching the Musudan intermediate-range ballistic missile last year. Despite that, military experts believe that North Korea learnt from those setbacks and might even be able to develop a nuclear-tipped, intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach the United States within the coming four years, during Trump’s presidency.