Troubling Diplomacy In The Korean Peninsula

By Philip Afaha

By 1948 Korea was split into two regions at the 38th parallel with each claiming to be the authentic government of the entire Korea. On 25th June 1950, North Korean tanks buoyed by Chinese and USSR support had defied the UN resolution and crossed the 38th parallel into the south. The 38th parallel was the arbitrary border set by the victors of world war 11 at Potsdam, however, none of the Korean regions accepted the 38th parallel as a permanent demarcation. The North had launched its attack against the United Nations resolution calling for their immediate withdrawal. Two days later and bolstered by the United Nations, that invasion was challenged by the United States under President Harry Truman.  The war raged for over two years until 1953 when an armistice was signed which resulted in exchanges of POWs and a demilitarized zone. Since no peace treaty was ever signed at the cessation of hostilities, it means that the two Koreas are technically at war.

The Korean conflict is a classical manifestation of cold war. While Japan and South Korea are allies of the USA and the capitalist west, North Korea’s military strength and obstinacy are constantly buoyed by Russia and China. The recent brazen nuclear challenge of the USA by Pyongyang is the latest in the trail of subterfuges and internecine wars are just testaments to remind the world that the cold war is alive. Unlike Iran, the youthful leader Kim Jong Un, with barely 6 poorly-calibrated nuclear warheads, appears to carry the proxy war too far, by throwing direct challenges at the USA and pretending to be in the same league as the super powers. The fearful thing is that the USA has been frustrated to abandoning its former policy of strategic diplomatic engagement to the scary self defence rhetoric. While the tripartite alliance has been engrossed in war exercises to hone its positions and tactics, Pyongyang has been upgrading and testing ICBMs with reckless abandon even with the threat of UN or US sanctions. Its most recent test, it boasted, can hit the mainland USA.

The interesting part of global nuclear arm race before the entrant of Pyongyang was that almost every country with the deadly weapon was open to dialogue and was ready to talk more. It is scary that the young North Korean leader is averse to dialogue and just like Adolf Hitler, is arrogantly threatening Armageddon against a more powerful foe. America under trump is getting more frustrated is now left with three options;

(1) To covertly work for a regime change in Pyongyang and unification of the two Koreas,

(2) Wait to be destroyed by the exuberant Kim Jong Un, or

(3) Protect its civilization by using the last option of diplomacy – military force.

While restrain and dialogue are desirable, the rhetoric from North Korea “America is within striking range”, ”grave warning to America” and continually defying all United Nations resolutions is gradually leaving the great power with the rather dangerous option to defend itself, and this is acceptable to do so in international law. An edgy country like Israel would strike North Korea if it is so threatened. While the USA should be commended for her restrain and mature disposition in the entire face-off, it is imperative to warn that president trump is not the kind of president to be dared carelessly. Like his Korean counterpart, he has a peculiar complex too, and may want to prove a point and restore the American pride…and make it great again.

The likely consequences of nuclear attack(s) on the Korean peninsula or Japan are that it will not only trigger similar altercations among other nuclear nations, but will have a contaminating effect on the South China Sea and the Asian enclave for decades. It will also destabilize the fledgling economies of the Asian tigers and trigger a refugee crisis in the most populated continent on the planet earth. Those who study weapons will agree that the current 7000 nukes in American arsenal are deadlier and capable of emitting more radiation that the ones dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The fear is that any such bombing today may trigger radiation-related diseases across the globe even up to our shores.

The theory that Pyongyang is invincible because it can cause enormous damage to her immediate neighbours is as laughable as it is misleading. Apart from its massive infantry, the north is far behind Japan, Seoul and the Americans in strategic weaponry. The US-Seoul-Tokyo alliance is too sophisticated for Pyongyang to spit on.

Leader Kim, like Saddam Hussain, is boasting on a suicide trip. He just wants to roast his people as a sacrifice for unification of the two Koreas.

Dr Philip Afaha is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of History and Diplomatic Studies, and Deputy Director of the University of Abuja Consultancy Services Unit.


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