Why Korean Peninsula Tensions Risk Spiraling Out of Control

US and South Korean marines carrying out drills. File photo.South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol harshly criticized the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) multiple missile launches at the National Security Council (NSC) emergency meeting. The DPRK carried out a barrage of weapons tests amid US-South Korean joint military drills that had been scheduled to end on November 4.”President Yoon is now fulfilling his campaign promise to reinvigorate the US-Republic of Korea (ROK) alliance by tightening military cooperation with the United States, eschewing the cooperative stance that his democratic predecessor President Moon Jae-in has taken,” said Dr. Victor Teo, political scientist specialising in International Politics of Indo-Pacific based in Singapore. “This has indeed elicited a similar confrontational response from the North, with fierce rhetoric and missile launches as the ROK-US conducted their most intense military exercise to date.”On November 3, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff announced that an intermediate-range or intercontinental-range ballistic missile had been fired by Pyongyang into the Sea of Japan. An alert was sounded in Japan in the provinces of Miyagi, Yamagata, and Niigata, in north-central Honshu.The DPRK resorted to multiple rocket launches as US-South joint exercises, named “Vigilant Storm,” kicked off on Monday and involved 240 aircraft and thousands troops from both countries, according to the Pentagon. Pyongyang issued official statements vocally objecting to the drills and then fired dozens of missiles in protest to the muscle-flexing by Seoul and Washington.”It certainly looks like a familiar downward spiral we have seen before, but I think there is only a limit to which the ROK and the US would allow things to deteriorate,” suggested Teo. “The reason is simple: neither the ROK nor the United States would like to engage in prolonged hostilities with the DPRK as the economic and strategic climate simply does not favour this.”Opinion & AnalysisSeventh Nuclear Test? How US and Its Asian Allies are Driving North Korea Into a Corner27 October, 10:55 GMTThe number of missile tests carried out by North Korea rose steeply in 2022, after South Korean President Yoon assumed the office and vowed to close ranks with the US and crack down on “Communist Pyongyang.”Since August 2022, Washington and Seoul have been conducting a series of large-scale exercises unnerving North Korea, given that the three have been technically at war since the 1950s. Even though the hostilities ended in 1953, South and North negotiated a protracted ceasefire instead of a permanent peace treaty. Thus, when Washington and Seoul demand that Pyongyang denuclearize, the latter argues that it needs the atomic weapons to guarantee its sovereignty and safety in the absence of a permanent peace treaty with the countries, especially given that the US is still maintaining a considerable military presence in the region.

"I expect that the political rhetoric and missile tests to halt once the US-ROK concludes their drill, unless of course the North chooses to utilize this as an excuse to further conduct the seventh nuclear test, or the ROK continues to step up the exercises to boost Yoon’s domestic standing," Teo suggested.

Apparently, the latter scenario mentioned by the academic is currently taking shape. Initially, the US-South Korea drills had been expected to wrap up on Friday; however, Washington and Seoul agreed to extend their large-scale exercises citing Pyongyang’s Thursday missile test as an excuse. The US media quoted the South Korean Air Force as saying on November 3 that “it was necessary to demonstrate a solid combined defense posture of the bilateral alliance under the current security crisis, heightened by North Korea’s provocations.”Opinion & AnalysisUS & South Korea’s Militaristic Approach Towards DPRK Pushing Region to Brink of War, Scholars Warn23 August, 15:37 GMTAccording to the political scientist, the ongoing muscle-flexing on the part of Seoul is largely due to Yoon Suk-yeol’s tough conservative agenda. The academic lamented the fact that “traditional diplomacy has become subservient to these agendas, to the extent that diplomats are playing second fiddle to their counterparts in the strategic services and military forces.””I personally think much of it has to do with media, both international and social, as well as the inequitable outcome of capitalism in many countries. It would be difficult for politicians to want to come to the table on their own, until the economic costs of the policies they are pursuing become very apparent, and very painful,” the political scientist concluded.


Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button