The Korean Peninsula has always been a hotbed of conflict ostensibly because of the ideological differences between the North and South exacerbated by interests that had to do with the Cold War. That, itself, was orchestrated by the leading powers, Russia, the United States, Japan and China. Those interests are still at play even today. What is known as the Korean War started on June 25, 1950 when the North Korean Communist army crossed the 38th Parallel and invaded non-Communist South Korea. As Kim Il-sung’s North Korean army, armed with Soviet tanks, quickly overran South Korea, the United States came to South Korea’s aid. However, the fighting ended on July 27, 1953, when an armistice was signed. The agreement created the Korean Demilitarized Zone to separate North and South Korea, and allowed the return of prisoners. As no peace treaty was signed, the two Koreas are technically still at war till date.
This, in a nutshell, is the historical background to what is going on in that peninsula today that is threatening world peace and putting the international community on tenterhooks in what an analyst described as the sum of all fears. North Korea has been on the watch list after the US-inspired designation of her as a ‘rogue state’ because of her non-conformist and belligerent posture in world affairs. That took a dangerous turn when she embarked on a murderous nuclear proliferation policy against good counsel by concerned nations who have reasons to believe that North Korea and her dynasty-inclined dictators lack the discipline and mental stability to manage weapons of mass destruction.
In her words and actions, North Korea, in our opinion, has consistently justified this perception of her as irrational by defying all resolutions of the United Nations in connection with her nuclear programme. Even her closest ally, China has not been able to rein her in.
Last week, that communist country fired a missile across Japanese air space which disintegrated and landed, harmlessly, into the Pacific Ocean. Authorities there claimed that it was in response to a joint military drill of the United States and South Korea. That missile was on its way to the American territory of Guam. The world was alarmed. Neither the United States nor Japan was amused by the development. Just as the ripple effect of that is yet to settle, the same country stunned the world, again, when she tested a hydrogen bomb the explosion of which caused a tremor that recorded magnitude 6.3 on the Richter scale used to measure the severity of earthquakes. There are speculations that North Korea is planning on equipping her Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) with that bomb targeted at the United States and South Korea.
In all these, the United States has declared that diplomacy and 25 years of extortion money had not swayed North Korea. Based on that assessment, she has decided that all options are on the table which includes military intervention. As a prelude, that world power has commenced the deployment of an advanced but contentious missile defence system, Terminal High Altitude Defence (THAAD) battery in South Korea, prompting China to warn of a new atomic arms race in a region increasingly on edge over North Korea’s drive to build a nuclear arsenal. Even the South Koreans themselves are restive over the prospect of a nuclear war with their hostile neighbour because, regardless of the false hope the United States is pledging, they know that when push comes to shove, they will take the first hit.
We agree with international affairs watchers that what is going on in the Korean Peninsula is a deadly game of wits. But for a fragile relationship with China, North Korea is largely isolated. With very few friends to turn to, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, is blindly desperate and in that state of mind can do the unthinkable.
Japan, in reaction to the missile that flied across her territory is threatening unilateral sanctions which China thinks will be ill-advised. With the degeneration in relations between Russia and the United States, the United Nations will be hard pressed for solutions to the simmering cataclysm. North Korea is determined to be recognised as a nuclear power but the US and her Allies feel that will be too dangerous for world peace. The International community is looking up to Beijing to make Pyongyang understand that taking on the world is a gruesome prospect. North Korea, in our view, must learn some lessons from Iraq, Syria and Libya. United States of America, on her part, must also learn from the mistakes in the Middle East and give diplomacy further chance to thrive. Otherwise, humanity will be the loser in a nuclear conflagration.