Nations start to choose sides in event of North Korea war

As tensions rise, North Korea has found a supporter even as some US allies reaffirmed they would back Washington in the event of an open conflict. Could Germany - and other NATO members - be forced to fight for Trump?

Amid growing talk of the possibility of open conflict between the United States and North Korea, countries have started to affirm their positions in case violence breaks out on the Korean Peninsula or elsewhere.

Although countries have yet to throw their support behind Pyongyang in the event of a confrontation, North Korea has found supporters in its neighbor China - with some conditions.

"If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korea regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so," said an editorial in the state-run Global Times.

Nordkoreanischer Raketentest Nordkorea Rakete

A rocket fired by North Korea

Read more: What is China's role in the North Korean crisis?

However, the paper did not recommend Beijing support Pyongyang under all circumstances.

"China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral," it wrote.

Earlier this week, China's Foreign Ministry urged both North Korea and the United States to "stop provoking each other" and de-escalate the situation in a bid to return to "dialogue and negotiations."

Infografik Militärisches Kräfteverhältnis in Ostasien ENG

'No stronger ally'

But others nations have been keen to choose a side. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Melbourne radio station 3AW on Friday that Washington "has no stronger ally than Australia."

"Let's be very clear about that. If there is an attack on the United States by North Korea, then the ANZUS treaty will be invoked and Australia will come to the aid of the United States," Turnbull said.

Read more: Does the US have to accept North Korea as a nuclear power?

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Roh Jae-cheon, spokesman for South Korea's Joints Chiefs of Staff, said on Thursday that Washington and Seoul are prepared to "immediately and sternly punish" provocations from Pyongyang.

Meanwhile, Japan's Defense Ministry said on Thursday that Tokyo "can never tolerate" such provocations from Pyongyang, noting that technically the country could intercept a missile bound for US territory if it appeared to be an existential threat to its own domain.

Infografik North Korea's missile ranges

Is Germany in? What would NATO do?

While German officials have warned of the "very serious situation" unfolding between its ally and North Korea, Berlin has yet to affirm support for a US incursion.

However, given Germany's position in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), would it have to heed the call if Washington triggered Article 5?

Read more: Donald Trump has complete, unchecked authority to use nuclear weapons

Despite Article 5 of the NATO Charter, which requires all members to come to the aid of any attacked member, it is unlikely Germany and other NATO members would be required to take military action against North Korea as Guam falls outside of the collective defense geographic limits detailed in the charter's sixth article.

Even as US President Donald Trump says the "fire and fury" he said North Korea would face if it attacked the US maybe "wasn't tough enough," senior officials in the White House have played down the president's tough talk, with Defense Secretary James Mattis saying a war would be "catastrophic."

Conflicts

Coal and iron

In August 2017, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution banning all coal, iron, iron ore and lead imports from North Korea. Pictured here is China's Liaoning Greenland Energy Coal Co. in Dandong, on the border with North Korea.

Conflicts

Currency

North Korea is prohibited from opening banks abroad, and UN member states are prohibited from operating financial institutions on Pyongyang's behalf. Any dealings that might help North Korea skirt the sanctions are banned, and UN member states must expel and repatriate anyone working on the regime's financial behalf.

Conflicts

Shipping

This North Korean cargo ship found itself boarded for inspection in the Philippines in March 2016 after the United Nations ordered member nations to de-register any vessel owned, operated or crewed on orders from Pyongyang. North Korean ships also cannot fly the flags of other nations to evade sanctions.

Conflicts

Air travel

Air Koryo, North Korea's national carrier, remains exempt from aviation sanctions and still has scheduled flights to China and Russia, as well as several domestic routes. However, the airline cannot fly to the European Union, which has banned it on safety grounds, and the United States prevents citizens from legally conducting business with the carrier.

Conflicts

Fuel

In December 2017, a new raft of UN sanctions targeted fuel imports in North Korea, meaning its residents could have difficulties driving the country in Pyeonghwa sedans (pictured above). The sale and transfer of diesel and kerosene are limited while the import of crude oil is capped at 4 million barrels a year.

Conflicts

Bank accounts, real estate

UN sanctions limit North Korea's diplomats abroad — at the country's Berlin embassy, for example — to only one bank account each. North Korea is also not permitted to own real estate abroad for any purposes other than consular.

Conflicts

Military training

It's a safe bet that North Korea's marching military did not learn its moves abroad: UN sanctions ban foreign security forces from training the country's army, police or paramilitary units. The United Nations does permit medical exchanges, but otherwise allow very little assistance of scientific or technical value.

Conflicts

Statues

Anyone wanting to own a larger-than-life Kim will have to await the end of North Korea's nuclear program. The UN sanctions currently ban the sale of statues by the nation.