▲ U.S Air Force B-1B Lancer before an Aug. 8 flight to South Korea Photo by Tech. Sgt. Richard P. Ebensberger on a public domain license
Following North Korea’s sixth nuclear test last weekend, when it detonated a hydrogen bomb, tensions and sabre rattling on the peninsula have reached a fever pitch. There is speculation that another ICBM test will follow in the very near future, perhaps as early as tomorrow.
When he was elected president, Moon Jae-in promised he would do everything in his power to avoid military conflict with the North, but with provocations reaching an all-time high in the past several months, the administration looks to be in position to change its stance, due not only to domestic, but also foreign policy factors.
They are also concerned about becoming targets in the event of a North Korean attack.
American president Donald Trump had warned the North last month of the possibility of a U.S. military strike following a threat on Guam, but nothing has materialized yet.
Moon recently said that he is ruling out war, but that there is the possibility that South Korea’s defenses could be fortified in the event of a strike from the North. There is a chance that Korea could look into stationing American tactical weapons in the country as a defence mechanism to ward off threats from the Kim regime.
However, recent reports from the domestic media have stated that the U.S. does not support such an option, although there is an understanding that such feelings exist thanks to the recent nuclear test.
Moon has also stated that should the United States decide to act against North Korea, it would be necessary to consult with the South first. This would make sense in real terms as the Korean people would stand to lose the most in the event of an armed conflict on the peninsula, even if it would prevent an attack on U.S. soil.
China and Russia have also kept up their roles on the stage as it seems that the conflict is set to enter its next stage.
China has long supported the idea of a double freeze, where North Korea would freeze its nuclear weapons and missile programs in exchange for a cessation of joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea. Such exercises include the recently completed Ulchi-Freedom Guardian, which Kim labeled as a dress rehearsal for a military invasion.
Below the surface, China is wary of any form of conflict breaking out, as it could have severe consequences for China’s position in the region, owing to the creation of a certain humanitarian crisis spilling across its borders.
Russia, and in particular president Vladimir Putin, has been keeping a close eye on the situation on the peninsula, especially of late.
According to American media reports, Putin commented that if North Korea opts to quit its nuclear weapons program, it would be the same as “getting an invitation to the cemetery,” adding that the North is “impossible to scare,” and that the reason for North Korea’s resolve is the fact that the programs are its only means of self-defence.
It is currently difficult to see how South Korea will take the lead on its counterpart to the north, as Moon continues to insist on tougher sanctions, which have done absolutely nothing to simmer the cauldron which it seems is just about to spill over.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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