The question that has been doing the rounds the world over is that whether this conflict between the US and North Korea has a possibility of turning into a Third World War. When the Cold War was at its peak, the odds in favor of the World War between USA and Russia were high. However, that was then. The Cold War ended, threats receded, and since then speculations have emerged now and then suggesting the regional conflicts that might go out of proportion in the shape of war. Moreover, every time, it proved wrong. However, the past few months have witnessed a series of alarming events that have led to war like situation between North Korea and the US & its allies.
The US representative to the Security Council of the UN alleged recently that North Korea had brought them on the brink of armed conflict on a bigger scale. President Donald Trump’s warning followed this of a severe military action as in case of any threat to the US or its allies. Nevertheless, it looks that North Korea is unnerved. The country positioned its missiles and fighter aircrafts closer to US’s West Coast. The country’s premier Kim Jong-un seems to have chosen a defiant path.
North Korea’s unrelenting nuclear tests along with the proof of the possession of the missiles that have the US in their target range have raised some serious issues that require immediate attention. America too is upgrading its nuclear arsenal, modernizing it alongside increasing the quantity. The US has the most significant budget compared to any other country when it comes to defense-related expenditure, and on the other end, you have a state that is just not willing to budge.
So, here we have state of affairs that indicates a possible armed conflict shortly between the two sides. But can this possible conflict lead to a World War III? With the world superpowers choosing their allies and other militarily essential countries getting hauled in the conflict, it remains impossible to predict about the magnitude of this conflict and the battle taking the form of World War III.
The new world order point towards the similarities to Great Britain, Russia, and the US of the Cold War Era. However, the world that exists today and its economic mechanics suggest a lot of differences with the scenarios that lead to World War I & II. Those wars were the result of nations aiming for higher economic growth only to find the conflict of interest and obstacles in the form of other countries in their way. In today’s time, globalization has lead to cooperative competition amongst most of the nations. The economic growth of the countries today is intermingled with the other countries. The effect of a slowdown of one region affects the other parts of the world.
So, the answer seems to be relatively straightforward that it will not happen at least the US & North Korea conflict will never escalate into a full-fledged war. The world witnessed the Vietnam War, numerous Middle East conflicts and the more recent 9/11 right under America’s nose but the World War III remains a mere buzz word. This war is not going to happen at least for a very long time. One needs to understand the trend in the history of world wars; the answer will emerge automatically that an armed conflict between US & North Korea will remain a regional conflict and never take the shape of war.
Both the nations are equipped with nuclear arsenals of different proportions. It acts as a deterrence as both the countries are willing to exercise this option and communicate the same in its different ways. The world history also suggests that no nuclear-equipped nation has ever been invaded by another nuclear-equipped one. Here both the nations have enough nuclear weapons sufficient for the deterrence to work. Effective deterrence requires two components one is physical, and the other is psychological. The physical component refers to having various military mechanisms sufficient to pose a threat to the other nation. The psychological component refers to communicating the threat at the world level and at different platforms to create a perception of an emerging danger of massive magnitude for the opponent nation. After the World War II, we have not witnessed any large-scale global armed conflict, and it supports the fact that nuclear deterrence works. While the effects might be indistinguishable for most of us, it undoubtedly contributes to world peace. However, it is well understood that effective nuclear deterrence is when it has a formidable influence on policies and actions.
To summarize, the emerging conflict between North Korea and America might turn into a brief armed conflict but will never intensify into a war of such a scale that it can be termed as THE World War III, until and unless some uncanny moves are not made by the two countries. However, a war of words that would be strategic is undoubtedly going to continue for long. America for sure will not commit the mistake of considering North Korea as another Vietnam or Iraq else the consequences will be unforgiving not only for the US but the whole world. America is known to undertake every possible measure to minimize collateral damages in such instances, discounting every possibility of creating a risk for its own country and eventually to world peace.