Monday Headline: North Korea Ups The Ante – Again
North Korea Making Additional Moves Toward Confrontation
Following days of increasingly hostile rhetoric, North Korean leader Kim Jong-il met with lawmakers to set out their priorities, which included declaring that nuclear weapons were “the nation’s life.” Over the weekend, North Korea said it had entered a “state of war” with the South and also cut off further communications with its neighbor.
The fear expressed by some is that the regime is painting itself into a corner. Rep. Peter King, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, believes that Kim Jong-un is “trying to establish himself” and “keeps going further and further out. And I don’t know if he can get himself back in.”
In South Korea, however, the fear is more tangible, as is the cost of underestimating Pyongyang’s threats. And many South Koreans have lost confidence that the West, namely the US, will take retaliatory action if Pyongyang does more than just talk.
US Administration Taking Bluster Seriously
Despite doubts among the South Koreans, Victor Cha of the Center for Strategic and International Studies agrees that while many easily dismiss Pyongyang’s recent sabre-rattling, the US government is taking the potential threat seriously.
While many analysts and media pass over Pyongyang’s rhetoric as harmless blather, actions by the U.S. government over the past couple of weeks demonstrate the seriousness with which it takes the threat. These actions each constitute a direct response to North Korean provocations,” contends Cha in a recent interview.
South Koreans Losing Confidence In US Willingness To Respond
A recent Asan Institute for Policy Studies survey found 66 percent of South Koreans said they wanted their country to develop nuclear weapons to ward off attacks from North Korea. This change, writes Gordon Chang in World Affairs, demonstrates a dangerous erosion of confidence and in the effectiveness of deterrence itself.
“We said this in the Cold War, and peace was maintained. We seem now to be less inclined to use these terms and, as a result, risk the breakdown of confidence, if not the failure of deterrence itself. We should not be surprised the South Korean public no longer has faith in our ability to defend their homeland—and wants its own nukes,” he writes.
Japanese And South Koreans Need To Form Firmer Ties
J. Berkshire Miller says as important as the US-China relationship will be to keeping North Korea in check, South Korea and Japan will have to place old animosities aside and form a more united front.
“On the foreign policy front, both Park and Abe are left dealing with an intransigent regime in Pyongyang. This presents an opportunity for them to put aside politics in order to cooperate more closely on North Korea. The situation in the Korean peninsula is becoming more volatile by the day and cannot be dismissed as a mere continuation of Pyongyang’s great chess game. There is no better time for GSOMIA to be dusted off and quickly implemented.”