BY ADEYEMI OSHUNRINADE April 5, 2013
North Korea has declared, “The moment of explosion is approaching fast.” It is one among provocative rhetoric coming from the DPRK, since the return to conflict, provoked by recent U.S.-South Korea joint military exercises and aggressive sanctions imposed on the North by the United Nations in response to nuclear tests conducted by the Pyongyang, in defiance of global opposition.
The young leader Kim Jung Un took it further on Thursday when North Korea threatened attacks by a “smaller lighter and diversified” nuclear force. In a show of bravado, the North locked South Korean workers out of a joint factory complex that for decades, served as the symbol of trade and coöperation between the North and South. It also announced it would restart a nuclear reactor shut down five years ago, after pressure from the international community.
In response to threat from North Korea, the United States has decided to send ballistic missile defenses to Guam, a territory known to house U.S. naval and air bases. Earlier in the week, the U.S. ordered B-2 stealth bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons over South Korea. Cold war B-52 and F-22 stealth fighters were also flown over the South, to prove to the North the U.S. is ready to counter attack by the North and defend its interest in the region, including protecting the people of South Korea in the case of an attack by the North.
North Korea has indicated it would not continue to succumb to international demand in the face of sanctions. It has also expressed opposition to what it called a move by the U.S. and its allies to impose upon the DPRK sovereignty and bring down its social system through unnecessary sanctions that have damaged its economic growth. The government said through its State’s News Agency KCNA that whatever becomes the outcome of recent impasse, would be the “responsibility” of the U.S. administration and its military “warmongers” with the goal to bring down North Korea’s social system.
When young Kim came to power after death of his father former leader, Kim Jung il, many thought he was too weak and young to assume the role of leadership. It turned out as a miscalculation, which motivated him to take a tougher stand and show the rest of the world he is not the weak leader they expected. Since taking office in late 2011, his approach to the nuclear issue remains same as that taken by his father. He continuously used the state media as a tool of propaganda, beginning with the launching of a satellite to space, announcement of an underground nuclear test, conducted when no one expected and the threat to restart his Country’s nuclear program, if the UN decides to impose new sanctions, which the organization did.
The state media blames the U.S. and South Korea for the escalation and condemned America’s show of force as a move that would be overcome by the North. “We formally inform the White House and Pentagon that the ever escalating U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK and its reckless nuclear threat will be smashed by the strong will of all the united service personnel and people and cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means of the DPRK and that the merciless operation of its revolutionary armed forces in this regard has been finally examined and ratified,” said KCNA. “The U.S. had better ponder over the prevailing grave situation.”
With the rhetoric, North Korea has declared itself a nuclear state though it is unfathomable to hear a nation discuss how it plans to attack another nation, talk less of expressing its nuclear strike means. Many analysts believe the North is far away from having the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead on a missile. However, some believe Pyongyang is capable considering the level of secrecy with which it conducts its nuclear program and recent display of arms and move towards ballistic missile test, which communication intercepts show might be launched in the coming days.
Besides having more than a million foot soldiers, the DPRK has many conventional weapons including military firepower. It is known to have a cache of medium-range ballistic missiles, capable of carrying high explosives that can reach some parts of the U.S. including Guam and Hawaii. U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has said the United States would take whatever measures necessary to defend the U.S. mainland from any attack from North Korea and would not fail in its obligation to protect South Korea.
“It only takes being wrong once, and I don’t want to be the Secretary of Defense who was wrong once,” Hagel said. “I hope the North will ratchet this very dangerous rhetoric down.” “There is a pathway that is responsible for the North to get on a path to peace working with their neighbors. There are many, many benefits to their people that could come. But they have got to be a responsible member of the world community, and you don’t achieve that responsibility and peace and prosperity by making nuclear threats and taking very provocative action,” he said.
It is unlikely the DPRK will yield to sweet talks by Washington. For years the regime got promises that never came to fruition but ended up being hammered with more sanctions. The North has adapted to living under UN sanctions’ regime for decades and during those periods, it has managed to build its survival on illegal trade in arms and luxury goods with some friendly nations including Iran, Russia and China.
North Korea is aware the U.S. military is overburdened. The belief in the North is America can’t afford another war after the economic costs in both human and financial resources estimated in trillions of dollars, that are results of both wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The regime also know current American leader Barack Obama is not a war President and as a leader who prefer the path of diplomacy to war, he would not risk an attack on the Korean Peninsula without considering the damage to U.S. foreign policy and the economic woes an attack could bring on South Korea and American interests in the region.
On Friday, markets in the region began to show signs foreign investors are skeptical about progress in the midst of threats from the North and the matching show of military might and political resolve from the United States and South Korea. The Chief Executive Officer of General Motors, Dan Akerson, said his company is making contingency plans for employee safety at the South Korean plant and that a tense situation, could prompt G.M. to move production elsewhere. In an interview with CNBC, he indicated, “If there were something to happen in Korea, it’s going to affect our entire industry, not just General Motors.”
In a report by New York Times on Friday, South Korean Stocks plummeted 1.6 percent in a selling spree among foreign investors, worried about what could happen to investments in the region if the North decides to attack. South Korean currency the Won sank against the U.S. dollar and analysts agree the South has more to lose in the global economy, unlike the North that has adapted to decades of aggressive sanctions.
Pyongyang has said it would never bargain its nuclear arsenal but rather build on it. The recent Arab uprising and the killing of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who years before his death gave up his nuclear program, is one among reasons why the North chose to keep its nuclear arsenal. The regime has said giving up Libya’s nuclear program, was the greatest mistake Gaddafi made that cost him his life. Besides, the joint military exercises by the U.S. and South Korea, has captured attention of China and North Korea as more reason the North, must stay a deterrent to American hegemony in the Korean Peninsula.
With the ongoing instability in the region there are losers and benefactors. The Korean conflict has diverted global attention from the civil war in Syria and could end up helping Bashar-Al-Assad keep leadership of the war troubled nation, despite the human costs so far. There is also the possibility Iran could seize opportunity of a Korean conflict, to restart its nuclear program. Whatever happens in Korea would decide what Iran might do about its nuclear aspirations. If North Korea survives current conflict and able to stand against the U.S. and South Korea, it could be a motivating factor and serve as proof why Tehran must retain its nuclear program as a block to America’s dominance in the region.
China and Russia want nations that could stand against U.S. incursion in the region. A strong North Korea is not a threat to China but could be a needy one to help consolidate its goal of dominance in the region and be a support, in the case of aggression by the United States. Beijing recently, found itself in conflict with Tokyo over the Japan-China Island dispute. With American bases all over Japan and a looming conflict that could become big, a stronger North Korea might be what China needs to deter a joint American-Japanese coöperation against its interests in the Islands.
Russia wants Assad to stay the leader in Syria and has always called for a balanced approach to resolving the conflict, even if it means Assad must relinquish power. With China, it has opposed a no fly zone that could have brought an end to the Syrian conflict. Any imbalance in South-North Korea would help Assad, solidify Russia’s hold in the region and help prevent U.S. plan to put the opposition in charge of Syria.
So far North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests, the latest in February. Despite global anxiety, it is clear the United States will do everything to defend its territories and interests if need be. In a joint briefing in Washington with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-Se, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed U.S. stand on the Korean issue: “And I reiterate again the United States will do what is necessary to defend ourselves and defend our allies, Korea and Japan,” he said. “We are fully prepared and capable of doing so, and I think the DPRK understands that,” he added.
To resolve the Korean conflict, the United States needs cooperation of China and Russia without which American efforts could lead to nothingness. The world is experiencing a nuclear race with the U.S. at the forefront, followed by China, Russia and other nuclear states including Britain, France, Pakistan and India. With American nukes shipped to South Korea, Seoul is a nuclear power in disguise. It is incontrovertible North Korea has joined the group as a nuclear state but whether Iran would join the league, depends on U.S. relations with China and Russia.
Dr. Adeyemi Oshunrinade [E. JD] is the author of ‘Wills Law and Contests,’ ‘Constitutional Law-First Amendment’ and ‘SAVING LOVE’ available at http://www.amazon.com/author/adeyemioshunrinade. Follow on Twitter @san0670.com
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- Report: North Korea Loads 2 Missiles Onto Mobile Launchers (voanews.com)
- ‘PROVOCATIVE’ THREAT:North Korea Clears Military To Attack US With Nukes (foxnews.com)
- N. Korea Expels All Foreigners Ahead Of Launching Missile Strike (vineoflife.net)
- NKorea clears its military to nuke US (wcpo.com)
- Hackers target North Korea Twitter feed (wcpo.com)
- North Korean army spokesman says military cleared to wage nuclear attack on U.S. (vancouversun.com)
- N Korean provocations fit long pattern, says Dempsey (stripes.com)
- North Korea Clears Its Military to Attack U.S. with Nuke (world.time.com)
- North Korea keeps tensions simmering (edition.cnn.com)
Categories: Foreign Affairs