North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong Ho declared earlier this week in New York that U.S. president Donald Trump has called for war against the North, a claim which has been wholly rejected by White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
This is just the latest incident in the ongoing crisis on the Korean peninsula, with Kim Jong Un also stating that “Pyongyang is ready to defend itself by shooting down U.S. military planes.”
It is difficult to determine whether there is any actual likelihood of these statements coming to fruition.
Some experts continue to argue that the heated rhetoric which has come from both sides over the past several months, ramping up the possibility of a major conflict, are exactly what both sides are trying to achieve in order to create a stalemate.
The lack of “restrained language” has created a sense of concern in the international community in that a preemptive strike or a direct nuclear attack could take place in the near future.
Donald Trump’s recent inaugural address to the United Nations, in which he vowed to completely destroy North Korea, generated a backlash from Kim Jong Un, as mass rallies were staged in Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung Square, gathering as many as 100,000 people, high ranking military personnel among those involved.
Kim, in response to the threats made by Trump said that the American president would “face results beyond his expectation,” adding that Trump is “unfit to hold the supreme command of a country, likened to a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire rather than a politician.”
Now the question remains, what happens next?
Both men have contributed to inflaming tensions, and it is hard to tell which will come next, a potential military move by the U.S. or another nuclear or missile test by the North.
It is the time-tested conundrum which has become the norm since the conflict escalated to new heights at the beginning of the summer.
The administration of Moon Jae-in has gone ahead with the deployment of the THAAD battery after saying he would hold back on doing so prior to his election in May, but now there is a real possibility that if the North engages in yet another missile test, the U.S. could elect to shoot it out of the sky, especially considering that Kim made previous threats to hit the island of Guam, where around 160,000 U.S. troops are stationed.
It should also not be forgotten that approximately 29,000 American soldiers are on the peninsula at present, with the chance that if threats of force escalate further, it could lead to a heightened U.S. military presence in the region.
A report earlier this week in the Chosun Ilbo has stated that the U.S. is now considering naval operations, including sending an aircraft carrier over the Northern Limit Line, the maritime border separating North and South Korea, this coming only days after U.S. B-1B bombers completed a coastal mission over the weekend.
In other developments, South Korea is also working on enhancing its special military capability, as tests of Directional Infrared Countermeasures (DICRM) were successful this past July. The technology is designed to help South Korean military aircraft to avoid incoming missiles and infrared homing from the North.
Despite increased activity from the North Korean side in recent times, it is still highly doubtful that the North would be able to fight a full-scale war, as its military hardware is largely outdated, and there is too great a sense of anxiety of engaging the United States head-on in conflict, so it would be content in continuing to manufacture the derision which has brought things to their current state.
It seems as if the wind is blowing in a different direction with each passing day, and so it remains to be seen what the next move on the chessboard will be, but it may be fair to conclude that no one will go for the checkmate just yet.
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