2017 Year in Review - National Security

By Thea McDonald

Picture: Globe License: Public Domain

North Korea Tests Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles Potentially Capable of Reaching Any Location in Continental U.S.

Tensions between North Korea and the United States rose over the last year as the nations’ leaders exchanged threats and snarky comments. As American lawmakers considered options for managing the escalating threat and warned that initiating nuclear action against this rival could lead to grave consequences, North Korea built and tested its arsenal. During 2017, North Korea conducted 16 tests that included a total of 23 missiles. The 23rd missile, a Hwasong-15 tested near the end of November, reached an altitude of 2,800 miles, the highest altitude any North Korean missile has ever reached. According to CNN, KCNA, North Korea’s state-run news outlet reported that this missile is capable of reaching any location on the U.S. mainland and “meets the goal of the completion of the rocket weaponry system development.” This “successful” test spurred the United Nations Security Council to approve sanctions against the aggressor that limit the amount of refined oil North Korea can import and scrutinize shipping into and out of the country.

ISIS Defeated in Syria and Iraq

ISIS has terrorized parts of the world for years. Finally, in 2017, an international coalition took control of two key ISIS strongholds, Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. According to U.S. News & World Report, 35,000 ISIS fighters held more than 17,000 square miles in the two states in January of 2017; by December, an estimated 1,000-3,000 fighters occupied a mere 2,000 square miles. This success came after months of fighting in both cities – fighting that killed as many as 11,000 civilians in Mosul alone. While much of the world celebrates the successes against the terrorist group, intelligence officers worldwide remain concerned about future potential ISIS-inspired “lone-wolf” attacks similar to those that have previously occurred in the U.S. and Europe.

Ethnic Cleansing in Myanmar

The Rohingya Crisis worsened this year as more than 6,700 Rohingya were killed, and as many as 2,300 died of starvation and other nonviolent causes, between August and September at the hands of the Myanmar government. This ethnic group has faced severe violence and brutality from their predominantly Buddhist government and its military, which have attempted to disguise the atrocities against the Rohingya as responding to internal terrorist attacks. In fact, the Myanmar government invoked sovereignty, which the New York Times describes as “the single biggest loophole in international laws and norms against atrocities,” as its defense against other world governments organizing action. As government leaders across the world, including U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, called for the Myanmar government and military to halt the atrocities the have led more than 600,000 Rohingya to flee Myanmar for Bangladesh, sovereignty has “prevailed” for the Myanmar government by allowing Myanmar to “act within their borders and protect [its] interests.”


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