The stand-off between the Koreas, which began after North Korea The underlying message is that
shelled a South Korean island without warning, just got a great deal
more tense. New South Korean Defence Minister Kim Kwan-Jin, who took
office after the attack, warned that South Korea would respond with war
to any further aggression. “If North Korea launches another military
attack on our territory and people, we must swiftly and strongly respond
with force and punish them thoroughly until they surrender,” he said.
“We do not want war, but we must never be afraid of it.” This
rhetorical escalation has many worried it could raise the risk of
all-out war. Here’s what Korea-watchers are saying.
in South Korean daily newspaper the Chosun Ilbo that “there is a real
possibility of war on the Korean Peninsula.” He explains that “the danger
stems from two combustible trends: A North Korea which mistakenly
believes it is invulnerable to retaliation due to its nascent nuclear
capabilities, and a South Korea that feels increasingly compelled to
react with military force to the string of ever more brash provocations
like the artillery barrage on Yeonpyeong Island.” Cha says the U.S.
should bolster South Korea’s military to increase deterrence and begin
talks to convince North Korea that nukes are not defensive weapons.
in the face of further North Korean attacks. It will be very hard for
the Seoul government to resist escalation in response to future
incidents; it has painted itself into a rhetorical corner, mostly by
design.” In other words, domestic
politics in South Korea will now make the country much more likely to
respond to North Korean aggression with all-out war. This is meant to deter the North, but Farley points out that because North Korean leadership is
unfamiliar with the South’s democratic politics they may not understand the new
situation. “Consequently,” he concludes, “I’m more than a little worried about the
possibility of an actual shooting war on the Korean Peninsula.”
would be a disaster for South Korean living standards. Ask a (West)
German someday about the cost of reunification, and consider that the
task facing Korea would be an order of magnitude more difficult.” Even a
stunning victory would also be “costly for [South Korea] in terms of
a statement from North Korean media warning of continued violence over a
South Korean island near the border.
South Korea illegally occupies a North Korean island which sets the
stage for more harassment and provocations. The article … implies
that North Korea intends to keep pressure on Yeonpyeon island, at least,
probably with the expectation that South Korea eventually will be
forced to abandon it. This statement adds context to the South Korean
announcement on the 8th that it intends to fortify the islands.
on his personal blog that this is a silver lining. It could increase
the deterrence effect and reduce the cost of a possible military
conflict. “If ‘surrender’ for the North Koreans means a retreat behind
the DMZ, then Seoul’s stipulated disinterest in unification makes the
South Korean statement of deterrence more credible. It would also
have the benefit of roping in the Chinese and U.S. interest in
maintaining the status quo on the peninsula.”
The stand-off between the Koreas, which began after North Korea
The underlying message is that