The Korean Peninsula will be in a state of neither war nor peace for a long time

North Korean trucks carrying missiles pass during a massive military parade in 2010 to mark the 65th anniversary of the communist nation's ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang. | AP
North Korean trucks carrying missiles pass during a massive military parade in 2010 to mark the 65th anniversary of the communist nation’s ruling Workers’ Party in Pyongyang. | AP

The US armed forces and the Ministry of Defence of South Korea launched scheduled joint exercises on 2 March. The exercises are codenamed “Key Resolve” and “Foal Eagle”. According to the Pentagon, apart from the Americans, the exercises, which will last until the end of April, will involve their satellites – the British, Danish, French and Canadians.

As you might expect, the joint exercises of the allies in South Korea were considered by the North Korean regime to be an act of aggression. Pyongyang demanded an immediate end to the exercises on the peninsula and ordered its army to begin testing new short-range missiles.

Moreover, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made a public statement in which he demanded that his army be ready for war against “Western enemies”. “The current situation, when a great war for national reunification is close at hand, requires all units of the Korean People’s Army to become an elite that is completely ready for war,” said Kim Jong-un. The politician said that they will oppose a war in the ideological-political, military-technical and physical sense.

Previously, North Korea had threatened the US with retaliation. “The army and the people of North Korea are fully prepared to confront the US in all military areas, including cyber warfare to blow up these citadels,” the official spokesman for the republic said then.

The National Security Committee of the DPRK said in turn that the 1.2-million-strong North Korean army is ready to use all kinds of weapons against America. “We will fearlessly take tough measures against the White House, the Pentagon and throughout the United States, this hotbed of terrorism,” the DPRK committee said.

North Korea has unsuccessfully sought the withdrawal of US military forces from the peninsula for many years, considering the presence of foreign military forces as a phenomenon that runs counter to international law and a direct threat to the national security of the country.

The world witnessed a similar scenario earlier in 2006, 2009 and finally 2013. According to experts, the most successful nuclear weapons tests were conducted by the regime of Kim Jong-un in 2013. The DPRK Defence Ministry claimed in a statement that this test would make a significant contribution to protecting the country and the nation’s sovereignty. The repercussions of this test were so great that even North Korea’s old allies Russia and China expressed concern about it. After the talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and the North Korean leader, Pyongyang agreed to suspend nuclear tests if the United States and Seoul give up military exercises.

But Pyongyang’s precondition was rejected, and in March 2014, North Korea tested a new ballistic missile called No Dong, which outraged members of the UN Security Council. To be clear, it should be noted that the No Dong ballistic missile was designed by Korean engineers recently and has a range of 1,300-1,500 km. That is to say the new missile is capable of destroying ground targets of the enemy far from the Korean Peninsula. Before that, the armed forces of North Korea did not possess such weapons, except for outdated ballistic medium-range missiles.

And on the day of the exercise – 2 March this year, Pyongyang fired two short-range missles towards the Sea of Japan, which was an asymmetric response to the joint military exercises of the United States and the Republic of Korea.

Against the background of the actions of the North Korean regime in recent years, it is not difficult to understand the concern of Japan, South Korea and even China, especially since the DPRK announced its withdrawal from all non-aggression pacts in 2013. Along with that, the likelihood of a military conflict on the peninsula is too low. This is not the first time that joint military exercises have been held in the region, and the sides always face inadequate aggressive reaction from the DPRK. However, even “the great Juche”, as Kim Jong-un is referred to, is aware that the main target of the US in these exercises is not North Korea but China.

It is crucial for Washington to strengthen its military presence on the Korean Peninsula – right near Beijing. And US fears are not in vain, since China is a military and economic threat to its true ally in the region – Japan. Therefore, despite the fact that China has large geopolitical advantages, we can expect increased American military presence in Southeast Asia.

In any case, the DPRK’s nuclear policy remains the main problem of the region, while attempts to resolve the issue diplomatically are still to no avail. A vacuum has formed in the issue of the security of the region, and there is no constructive way out of the situation in sight yet.

This article was originally published by Region Plus weekly review

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