▲ President Donald J. Trump welcomes President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea to the White House Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead
Tension on the Korean peninsula has spiked upwards once again following North Korea’s successful July 4 test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which fell into the East Sea.
The missile launch last Tuesday was the sixth to land in the waters of Japan’s exclusive economic zone since last August.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted that “the missile launch this time has clearly shown that the (North Korean) threat has further increased.”
The latest test is cause for concern as only the U.S., China, and Russia have land-based missiles capable of covering the same range as the Hwasong-14, the ICBM in question.
“The United States strongly condemns North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Testing an ICBM represents a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region, and the world,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, following the incident.
Compounding matters is the fact that US military commanders cannot be one hundred percent certain that a war on the Korean peninsula won’t stretch at least as far as Hawaii or Alaska.
American and South Korean soldiers conducted their own missile test in response to the provocation the following day.
Lee Sun-jin, South Korea’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said “as the combined live fire demonstrated, we may make resolute decisions at any time, if the Alliance Commanders in Chief order. Whoever thinks differently is making a serious misjudgment.”
Only days before the latest ballistic test, President Moon Jae-in traveled to Washington to meet with American President Donald Trump, to discuss how to approach the situation with North Korea, as well as other trade and economic issues.
According to American experts, the summit between the two leaders was a success, as both pledged support for the implementation of existing sanctions and applying maximum pressure on the North.
Ken Gause, a North Korea expert at CNA Corp, was pleased with the meeting, saying that Trump “backed Moon’s lead on peninsula affairs, including supporting inter-Korean dialogue” adding that it could also “give Moon the latitude he needs to deal with Beijing.”
Moon attended the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany over the weekend, where he had a chance to meet with his counterparts from the region, China’s Xi Jinping and Abe, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump.
The issue of how to deal with North Korea was at the top of the agenda, as the international community strives to figure out how to deal with the rogue state North of the 38th parallel.
What is becoming clearer is that there is no workable solution to the conflict at this current time, especially with power players facing off on opposite sides.
One one hand, China and Russia have stated that they are in agreement that “North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs should be suspended in return for a moratorium on large-scale military exercises by the United States and South Korea.”
The reason for this insistence is because China fears losing its sphere of influence in the Asia-Pacific, as it has funded the Kim regime consistently for years now, while a conflict would definitely create a refugee crisis across China’s borders, which could lead to further destabilization in the region.
Republican Senator Cory Gardner pointed to China’s failure to exert any pressure on North Korea, saying that recent developments in China-U.S. relations could not continue to be the same and that all diplomatic and economic measures should be considered in an attempt to prevent nuclear war.
Adam Mount, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and an expert on nuclear security added that North Korea had to be deterred over the long run and that Seoul, and not Beijing should be the first stop.
At the current time, it seems that all are in agreement about one thing - that an all out frontal war would have disastrous consequences for everyone involved.
A meeting between Xi and Moon in Hamburg produced some positive results in that Xi supports Moon’s efforts to bring peace to the peninsula through inter-Korean dialogue and easing of military tensions, as both referred to the test as unacceptable.
However, according to a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, “North Korea’s missile test will escalate tensions on the Korean Peninsula, which will be reflected in the U.S. and South Korean determination to deploy the THAAD system,” adding that it is becoming more apparent that Moon is looking to take “a stiffer stance against the communist regime.”
China has been against the deployment of the anti-missile defense system, arguing that it could be a threat to stability in the region, but also that it compromises its own defense systems as well.
There were some things to take away from the early days of the summit, however.
There has never been a historical precedent for a military attack aimed at destroying a country’s nuclear arsenal, with United States Secretary of Defence Jim Mattis saying that a resumption of conflict on the Korean Peninsula “would probably be the worst kind of fighting in most people’s lifetimes.”
Moon took the opportunity to once again reach out to the North, saying that he would be open to dialogue with Kim, providing that the right conditions could be created.
He also proposed a new round of reunions between separated families on October 4th, to coincide with the Chuseok holiday, and the tenth anniversary of a landmark peace declaration between late President Roh Moo-hyun and former leader Kim Jong-il.
Almost three decades ago, the Berlin Wall collapsed and the threat of communism was thought to be extinguished from the old continent.
Germany was able to achieve reunification and began to chart its course as the leading power in Europe once again.
According to former German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who served two terms in that capacity, “it is true that the possibility of inter-Korean reunification has diminished” but urged people to keep hoping that it may one day happen.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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