Op-Ed: There can be no backing down to North Korea - here's why

I'll never forget the tension I felt flying back to South Korea during Thanksgiving week in 2010, after completing military training in Arizona.

I had been stationed in the country for thirteen months, and North Korea had just launched an attack on South Korea, firing artillery shells at South Korea's Yeonpyeong Island - an act that killed two civilians and two marines, and injured more than a dozen others.

I knew there would be tensions across the peninsula and delays in the airport, and wondered if I would even make it home to my wife and young son, who were waiting for me at our house in Waegwan, near Camp Carroll. The feeling of apprehension that gripped me was felt across the region, with both the U.S. and South Korean militaries conducting military exercises in the Yellow Sea, ready to respond to impending threats at any moment.

Sadly, this was not the first attack by North Korea that year. Earlier in 2010, a South Korean military vessel called the Choenan had mysteriously sank, with South Korean officials stating publicly that the disaster was caused by a North Korean submarine torpedo. 46 sailors died, yet nothing was done to punish North Korea. Now, as I prepared to head back to Korea from my training, North Korea had yet again launched an unprovoked attack on the South, and yet again, they faced no repercussions.

The situation in Korea was all too real for me, as I was responsible for leading a counterintelligence team at a U.S. Army Intelligence detachment at Camp Carroll. Our job was complicated, but at the forefront of it all was the understanding that North and South Korea were (and are to this day) still technically in a state of war, with an ever-present threat of aggression by North Korea.

For those living on the Korean peninsula - and especially those actively working to counter the North Korean threat - heightened tensions between the two countries constitute not only a real concern, but a genuine threat to safety and security.

When my wife and I lived in Waegwan, we were required to have gas masks at our home, ready in the event of an attack. When my son Jeffrey was born, I was issued a tiny infant gas mask to take home, to protect him as well. The threat in Korea is a real one.

Let's be clear on the North Korean regime: It is led by a madman, it is arguably the most oppressive regime in the world today, and it is an existential threat to not only our ally South Korea, but to the United States as well.

The time has come to get tough on North Korea, and to hold them accountable for their threats and actions. Up until now, they have literally been getting away with murder.

For example, after the rocket launch that killed four South Koreans, President Obama's tepid response included calling on China to "make clear to north Korea that there are a set of international rules that they need to abide by." These timid words did nothing to rein in North Korea, and did nothing to actually hold them accountable.

We need to hold North Korea accountable with broad measures like the sanctions resolution, that the United Nations Security Council recently approved in a 15-0 vote. We also need to respond with tough rhetoric to let Kim Jong Un know that the United States is dead serious, and we will not back down. Only through absolute strength and resolve can we sustain peace on the Korean Peninsula, and prevent a future nuclear threat to the United States.

President Trump is taking the appropriate course of action, by speaking to Kim Jong Un in language that he will understand, and by standing strong for our national security.

The time has come to get very tough on North Korea; it is the only way to sustain peace in the region, and prevent the future escalation of conflict.