Every year on July 4th, firework displays across the United States celebrate the country's independence, with major cities such as Chicago hosting extravagant shows annually at the iconic landmark of Navy Pier. In 2009, however, while Americans watch their colorful "bombs bursting in air," North Korea has decided to launch multiple military missiles as part of a test it symbolically scheduled for this particular day.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as North Korea is officially named, has been hostile to the U.S. throughout its existence, and its dictator Kim Jong-Il's decision to test-fire their short-range missiles on the 4th of July is a blatant act of defiance and mockery of the Western superpower that backs the democratic government of South Korea.
The state of war between Pyongyang and Seoul has never ended, and the De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) diving the peninsula into North and South has become notorious as the world's most dangerous border. For 50 years, the larger North Korean army has been poised to attack their South Korean counterparts who are bolstered by American troops.
All that keeps the frozen Korean War from going hot again is a cease-fire deal signed in 1953 that created the DMZ and solidified the partition, but this agreement has lately become increasingly volatile in the face of bold moves by North Korea to seek and share nuclear weapons material and redouble its efforts to improve its missile range.
In addition to mocking the U.S., the cloistered totalitarian North Korean regime has bucked the world community by defying multiple United Nations resolutions, and even longtime ally China has been irritated by its increasingly vigilante neighbor. China hopes to avoid war in Korea because the trickle of refugees that manage to escape the draconian North might then turn into a flood, and no outcome would be favorable for Beijing. Should the North win, the fanatical militarists in Pyongyang would be strengthened and emboldened to swat away China's restraining hand; a victory by the South, however, would put a U.S. ally at China's doorstep, which is just as unacceptable.
South Korea has called the launches an provocative move by the North, and both Seoul and Washington are watching closely for any further actions and intentions behind them. There appear to be no ground troop exercises or movements in sync with the volley of Scud-like missiles sent towards the Sea of Japan that would indicate preparations for any greater military operations. However, these actions are not conducive to the restoration of the diplomatic talks, officials say, and only serve to increase the stakes in a dangerous game of brinksmanship that makes the U.S. and its allies nervous and obscures any pragmatists in North Korea.