Derek Coleman: Common sense should prevail when dealing with North Korea
It seems we are all being threatened, and when I say “all,” I mean every man, woman and child in the United States.
Who would be foolish enough to threaten us? The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, called North Korea for short, that’s who. They have threatened a pre-emptive nuclear strike and have said they will “destroy” the United States.
So, what have we done that has upset this tiny country, less than twice the size of West Virginia, so much that they seem likely to declare war? Well, technically I guess that is the wrong question because we are already at war with them.
The Korean war of 1953 ended with an armistice, which is a cease fire and not an end to hostilities, and so as far as the North Korean government is concerned, they are still at war with us.
Ever since that cease fire was put in place, North Korea has prosecuted a propaganda war against its southern neighbor, against Japan and against America. There have been clashes, in 1968 North Korean naval forces captured the USS Pueblo in international waters and held its crew for nearly a year before releasing them.
The year before it sank a South Korean warship in the Yellow Sea, killing 39 of its crew, and there have been several other, more recent, incidents.
Over the past few months, however, the rhetoric coming out of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, has increased and there are several reasons for this. In December 2011, Kim Jong Il, the North Korean Leader for many years, died and his son Kim Jong Un took over.
Being a new, relatively young and previously unknown leader, Kim seemingly wants to make his mark in the world.
Add to that the fact that South Korea too has a new leader, Park Geun-hye, the first woman to hold the office, and perhaps a possible reason for the north’s increased belligerence begins to show, maybe they just want to impress their neighbors.
If that is so they are trying very hard. In recent months they have tested long-range missiles and a few weeks ago carried out an underground nuclear test as a result of which the United Nations imposed increased sanctions against them.
Among other things, these sanctions cover the trading of luxury goods and the selling of missile and nuclear technology.
U.N. sanctions bite deep, many of the country’s 24 million people are hungry, the economy is rocky, and this may be another reason for their posturing and saber-rattling, they hope if they make enough noise and enough threats the rest of the world may well pay them to shut up.
Of course, the United States does not take threats to its safety lightly. Every year we hold military exercises with our friends from South Korea and these are currently going on with naval forces deployed in the area and B2 stealth aircraft together with B52 bombers over flying the country.
As an addition to these planned exercises anti-missile ships have been sent to watch the situation and a missile defense system is being moved to Guam.
How real is the threat from the north? They certainly have a long range rocket capable of reaching bases in Japan, Guam and the west coast of the continental United States, but this rocket was used to launch a satellite into orbit and experts seem to think it may lack re-entry and target guidance systems, both essential to turn a rocket into a missile. We know they have nuclear capabilities but again, the technology to turn these into a usable warhead is believed to be lacking.
They also have troops. Something over a million men are thought to be under arms although many of these arms are old Soviet weapons and their usefulness is doubtful.
Most of these troops are now in place near the border between the two countries and South Korea reports that the north has moved a couple of missile batteries near the coast.
As if to underline their threats last Friday the North Korean Government asked the international community if they needed any help to evacuate their embassies as the Koreans could not guarantee their safety in the event that hostilities break out.
At this stage we have no way of knowing whether anything will happen but it seems doubtful. History shows that time after time, North Korea has made threatening noises and indeed has launched small provocations only to withdraw and seek a settlement. A couple of things are different this time. One is that Kim Jong Un is a new leader and an unknown quantity. The other is North Korea’s neighbor, China, may not want them to spark an event that could lead to the collapse of the regime, flood southern China with refugees and put a democratic country, friendly to the west, on its border. I guess all we can do is to let events take their course and to hope that common sense prevails.
Derek Coleman is a part-time writer who is a native of England and who now lives in Hurricane, W.Va. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.