South Korea


 European Union embassies in the North Korea will remain open for business, despite a proposal from Pyongyang for them to evacuate staff over mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula, the UK’s Foreign Office said on Wednesday.

Diplomats Staying Put, EU Tells North Korea

“The EU does not share the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) views on the current situation and does not recognize the nature of threat as described,” the EU statement read.

North Korea proposed on Tuesday that foreign embassies evacuate, saying it could not guarantee their safety after April 10.

There have been no evacuations, however.

The North Korean proposal came shortly after the isolated north-east Asian country threatened to launch nuclear attacks on both the US mainland and American military bases in the region.

South Korea’s foreign minister said on Wednesday Pyongyang could carry out a test firing of an intermediate-range ballistic missile at any time.

 

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The North Korean threats came as US and South Korean forces carried out annual joint military exercises, some of them near the maritime border between the two Koreas. The United States responded by deploying F-22 Raptor stealth fighters and B-2 and B-52 bombers to the region.

Analysts say North Korea is unlikely to launch a full-scale attack on either US forces or South Korea, but concerns persist that rising tensions could spark hostilities.

 © RIA Novosti ,Moscow, April 10, 2013)

What war on the Korean Peninsula would look like.

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The Korean Peninsula is on a knife’s edge, one fateful step from war. While Koreans are accustomed to periodic spikes in tensions, the risk of renewed hostilities appears higher than at any time in the past 60 years, when American, North Korean, and Chinese generals signed an armistice agreement. Far more than 1 million people died in the Korean War, with at least that many troops and civilians injured over the course of the three-year campaign.

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The exact leadership dynamics at play in Pyongyang remain mysterious, but the domestic survival of the Kim family dynasty appears to hinge on maintaining a credible nuclear and missile threat — backed up by a local great power, China. To achieve the former, Kim Jong Un appears willing to risk the latter. His regime’s unrelenting verbal threats are intended to rally domestic support, and its reckless brinksmanship is aimed at forcing the outside world to back down and back off. In the past days and weeks — adding to the tension created by its recent nuclear and missile tests — Pyongyang has severed a hotline with Seoul, renounced the 1953 armistice, conducted cyberattacks, and, against its own financial interests, closed down the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which is the only economic thread holding together relations with the South.

There is no single red line that, when crossed, would trigger war, but the potential for miscalculation and escalation is high. North Korea has a penchant for causing international incidents — in 2010 alone it used a mini-submarine to sink the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan and shelled South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island. The brazen and unprovoked killing of military personnel and civilians shocked many South Koreans, some of whom faulted then-President Lee Myung Bak for a tepid response. The new president, Park Geun Hye (South Korea’s “Iron Lady”) is determined not to echo that weakness and has vowed a strong response to any direct provocation. Meanwhile, the United States, via the annual Foal Eagle and Key Resolve exercises, has many troops, ships, and planes on maneuvers in the region and, as an additional show of resolve, flew long-range B-2 stealth bombers from Missouri to Korea and dispatched F-22 fighter jets as well.

The desire to show strength, the fear of looking weak, and the presence of tons of hardware provides more than enough tinder that a spark could start a peninsula-wide conflagration. An accident — such as a straying missile, an incident at sea or in the air, a shooting near the Northern Limit Line or the Demilitarized Zone — could trigger an action-reaction cycle that could spiral out of control if Pyongyang, running out of threats or low-level provocations, were to gamble on a more daring move. It might calculate that a bold gesture would sow doubt and dissent in South Korea, drive a risk-averse United States to back down and restrain its eager ally, and hand China a fait accompli in which Beijing has no alternative to protecting its upstart neighbor. It might be very wrong.

Let’s say that the North decides to fire its new mobile KN-08 intermediate-range ballistic missile, capable of reaching U.S. bases in Guam. An X-band radar based in Japan detects the launch, cueing missile defenses aboard Japanese and U.S. ships. The U.S.S. Stetham, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer equipped with Aegis phased-array radars, fires its SM-3 missiles, which hit and shatter the KN-08 warhead as it begins its final descent. The successful intercept is immediately touted internationally as a victory, but, now desperate for tactical advantage that will allow it to preserve its nuclear and missile programs, the North Korean leadership orders an assault on South Korean patrol vessels and military fortifications built after the 2010 shelling incident.

The regime feels safe in striking out along the maritime boundary because the two sides have repeatedly skirmished in the area in the past 15 years. But President Park, determined to show backbone, dispatches on-alert F-15K fighter aircraft armed with AGM-84E SLAM-Expanded Response air-to-ground missiles to destroy the North Korean installations responsible for the latest assault. For good measure, they also bomb a North Korean mini-submarine pier as belated payback for the sinking of Cheonan. North Korean soldiers and military officers are killed in the attack. Pyongyang vows a merciless response and launches a risky salvo of rockets into downtown Seoul, in hope of shocking the Blue House into seeking an immediate cessation of fighting. But far from ending the tit-for-tat attacks, North Korean actions have now triggered the Second Korean War.

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U.S. and ROK Combined Forces Command implements a pre-arranged plan — perhaps using submarine-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles and Massive Ordnance Penetrator bombs dropped from a B-2 — to eliminate North Korea’s two major missile launch facilities: Tonghae in the northeast and Sohae in the northwest, both of which are fairly close to the Chinese border. North Korea responds with more rockets and Scud missiles, accompanied by North Korean Central News announcements suggesting that they could be armed with biological agents. China, seeking to restrain all sides, pours troops and materiel across the border to protect its interests and instigates a secret plan to replace Kim Jong Un with a senior general who understands the North’s total dependence on its only ally. The resulting confusion leads to a belief that North Korea, and not just the Kim regime, is collapsing. Meanwhile, the United States quietly embarks on a secret mission to secure North Korea’s nuclear weapons.

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Even now, however, the Second Korean War has only just begun because, as conflict breaks out, all participants expand their strategic goals. South Korea — which initially had hoped only to force North Korea to calm down enough to re-enter negotiations on nuclear weapons, expanded inter-Korean economic ties, and human rights — now believes North Korea is going to collapse and starts to implement an assertive reunification policy. The U.S. policy of deterrence and strategic patience has failed, so Washington decides to pursue active denuclearization and regime change. It joins with Seoul in planning postwar reconstruction in which the peninsula is reunified.

China, which was slow to curb its ally’s proliferation and never had a good handle on Kim Jong Un, seeks to ensure that the new leader of North Korea can restore stability. China also wants a new leader in Pyongyang to adopt a pro-China policy — one which includes continued preferential access to North Korean mineral deposits for its state-owned enterprises. Russia supports China, and it is promised unfettered access to the warm-water port in the Rason Special Economic Zone in northeastern North Korea.

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It is easier to start a war than to stop one, but in the best case the Second Korean War might end with an international conference — perhaps in Jakarta under the auspices of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations — in which the United States and South Korea come to a modus vivendi with China and a greatly weakened North Korea over the country’s future, addressing succession and confederation with the South,  as well as the verified destrcution of nuclear weapons. In the worst case…well, an awful lot more people would die.

The Korean War began in June 1950 as a result of a conscious policy choice on the part of North Korean founder Kim Il Sung. With the Chinese civil war successfully concluded and authoritarianism on the rise, Kim concluded the time was ripe to deliver a knock-out blow and bring a long Korean civil war to a similar conclusion. He spent 10 days amassing 900,000 soldiers near the 38th Parallel, and in the pre-dawn hours on June 25, he ordered the invasion of the South. Hiding in plain sight, the troops nonetheless surprised the Republic of Korea Army, because the presumption was that Kim would never launch a full-scale war that could embroil a war-weary region in another major conflagration.

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The presumption, as we know now, was dead wrong. The United States mobilized a formidable international coalition under U.N. auspices and, together with the ROK Army, regrouped and launched their own counteroffensive. American leadership, too, was susceptible to overtly optimistic appraisals. By October, General Douglas MacArthur was so confident of rapid victory that he assured President Harry S Truman that the war would be over by Christmas. But the ferocity of inter-Korean tensions, mixed with Cold War superpower aims, assured the war slogged on until 1953.

The war’s renewal would be more likely to result from miscalculation than from deliberate choice. Kim Jong Un may not want war, but amid heightened tensions there are many ways one could start — and it could well be that it is the United States that miscalculates. There is no sound empirical method for identifying the particular catalyst that would trigger war, but should war begin again in earnest, its intensity and its duration could prove a nasty surprise, as it did the first time. And the consequences could affect Northeast Asia for the rest of the century.

 

BY PATRICK M. CRONIN | APRIL 3, 2013

South Korea will strike back if the North stages any attack on its territory, the new president warned on Monday, as tensions ratcheted higher on the Korean peninsula amid shrill rhetoric from Pyongyang and the U.S. deployment of radar-evading fighters.

South Korean soldiers take part in a military exercise, near the demilitarized zone in Paju

 

North Korea says the region is the brink of a nuclear war in the wake ofUnited Nations sanctions imposed for its February nuclear test and a series of joint U.S. and South Korean military drills that have included a rare U.S. show of aerial power.

North Korea said on Saturday it was entering a “state of war” with South Korea in response to what it termed the “hostile” military drills being staged in the South.
A South Korean soldier patrols as trucks leave the South's CIQ office in Paju, to go to Kaesong in the North

But there have been no signs of unusual activity in the North’s military to suggest an imminent aggression, a South Korean defense ministry official said last week.

“If there is any provocation against South Korea and its people, there should be a strong response in initial combat without any political considerations,” President Park Geun-hye told the minister of defense and senior officials at a meeting on Monday.

The South has changed its rules of engagement to allow local units to respond immediately to attacks, rather than waiting for permission from Seoul.

Stung by criticism that its response to the shelling of a South Korean island in 2010 was too slow, Seoul has threatened to target North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and to destroy statues of the ruling Kim dynasty in the event of any new attack, a plan that has outraged Pyongyang.

Seoul and its ally the United States played down Saturday’s statement from the official KCNA news agency as the latest in a stream of tough talk from Pyongyang.

North Korea stepped up its rhetoric in early March, when U.S. and South Korean forces began annual military drills that involved the flights of U.S. B-2 stealth bombers in a practice run, prompting the North to puts its missile units on standby to fire at U.S. military bases in the South and in the Pacific.

The United States also deployed F-22 stealth fighter jets on Sunday to take part in the drills. The F-22s were deployed in South Korea before, in 2010.

On its part, North Korea has canceled an armistice agreement with the United States that ended the Korean War and cut all hotlines with U.S. forces, the United Nations and South Korea.

CALLS FOR RESTRAINT

White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said North Korea’s announcement that it was in a state of war followed a “familiar pattern” of rhetoric.

Russia, which has often balanced criticism of North Korea, a Soviet-era client state, with calls on the United States and South Korea to refrain from belligerent actions, said a recurrence of war was unacceptable.

“We hope that all parties will exercise maximum responsibility and restraint and no one will cross the point of no return,” Grigory Logvinov, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry official, told Interfax news agency.

France said it was deeply worried about the situation on the Korean peninsula while NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow said the alliance hoped “that this is more posturing than a prelude to any armed hostilities.”

Even the new pope has joined in the calls for peace.

China has repeatedly called for restraint on the peninsula.

However, many in South Korea have regarded the North’s willingness to keep open the Kaesong industrial zone, located just a few miles (km) north of the heavily-militarized border and operated jointly by both sides, as a sign that Pyongyang will not risk losing a lucrative source of foreign currency by mounting a real act of aggression.

The Kaesong zone is a vital source of hard currency for the North and hundreds of South Korean workers and vehicles enter daily after crossing the armed border.

South Korean soldiers keep watch on the north at the "Truce Village" of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone in Paju

It was still open on Monday despite threats by Pyongyang to shut it down.

“If the puppet traitor group continues to mention the Kaesong industrial zone is being kept operating and damages our dignity, it will be mercilessly shut off and shut down,” KCNA quoted an agency that operates Kaesong as saying in a statement.

Closure could also trap hundreds of South Korean workers and managers of the more than 100 firms that have factories there.

The North has previously suspended operations at the factory zone at the height of political tensions with the South, only to let it resume operations later.

 

* Reuters (april 1, 2013)

(Additional reporting by Paul Eckert in WASHINGTON; Editing by David Chance and Raju Gopalakrishnan)