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Will North Korea break away from the 'balance point'?

Ahn Jong Sik, Deputy Head, SBS Political Department  |  2017-04-10 10:04
President Trump has stated that the US is willing to act unilaterally on North Korea if China does not act to rein in its nuclear program. Furthermore, comments about kinetic military options are becoming increasingly common rhetoric amid the fraught geopolitics of Northeast Asia. In response, North Korea has shown no intention of shying away from additional provocations. Analysts predict that additional nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches will occur during the month of April, which include Kim Il Sung's birthday (April 15) and the anniversary of the establishment of the Korean People's Army (April 25). 

The Korean Peninsula holds particular geopolitical significance for four powerful nations: China, Japan, Russia, and the US. As one of the worlds middle powers, South Korea has been relegated to a back seat in regional politics due to its economically powerful neighbors. However, the Korean peninsula has maintained a steady balance despite the precariousness of the situation.

Although steady development of North Koreas nuclear weapons and missile arsenal continues unabated, the country has not posed a serious threat to the US because it lacks the technology to accurately strike US territory. However, through its continued provocations and threats, the rogue nation has managed to draw a disproportionate amount of attention to itself.

China has also tried to make the most of North Korea's strategic position, although it has shown some degree of genuine concern over the regimes dogged pursuit of nuclear and missile development. 

For South Korea, North Koreas bellicose rhetoric and provocations have been highly problematic, but have not seriously threatened the status quo of the peninsula. 

However, North Korea appears remarkably determined to develop an ICBM capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to threaten US interests. Although experts suggest that there is still a long way to go before the North can develop such a capability, the threat is being taken more seriously than before. It is likely that prior to the North Korean regime achieving such a goal, the US will move to eliminate the threat.

The North Korean government appears to believe that developing a nuclear missile capable of striking the United States is in its best interests, but at some point in time the US will be compelled to act.

When the time of such upheaval approaches, it will remain to be determined whether South Korea is able to prevent conflict and move toward stable reunification of the peninsula. Given the circumstances, the most important task for the new South Korean government will be to formulate a realistic plan to deal with Norths continued push for a military confrontation.

*Translated by Yejie Kim
*Edited by Lee Farrand

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