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Monday, September 25, 2023

Tensions rise on the Korean peninsula following nuclear test

By Ardain IsmaCSMS Magazine Staff WriterThe world is watching with great interest as tensions flare again on the Korean peninsula shortly after Pyongyang conducted its first and successful underground nuclear test. The explosion not only sent shockwaves throughout Southeast Asia, but also threatening the shaky ceasefire that has been holding across the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) since 1953.North Korea raised the stake again this morning by saying that any imposition of sanctions will be considered as an act of war, and it will be dealt with as such. This has prompted South Korea to declare that it is taking steps to make sure its troops are prepared for nuclear warfare, and Japan imposed new economic sanctions to hit the economic lifeline of the communist nation’s 1 million-member military, the world’s fifth-largest.North Korea, in its first formal statement since Monday’s claimed that the test was a huge success and proved that North Korean “science is one to be reckoned with.” A statement issued by the North Foreign Ministry sent a chilling warning to the West. “Further pressure will be countered with physical retaliation,” the North’s Foreign Ministry warned. The statement was carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.“If the U.S. keeps pestering us and increases pressure, we will regard it as a declaration of war and will take a series of physical corresponding measures,” the statement said without specifying what those measures could be.Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States would not attack North Korea, rejecting a suggestion that Pyongyang may feel it needs nuclear weapons to stave off an Iraq-style U.S. invasion. Rice told CNN that President Bush has told the North Koreans that “there is no intention to invade or attack them. So they have that guarantee. … I don’t know what more they want.”But she also said that the decision by Pyongyang to go ahead with its nuclear program means it likely will see “international condemnation and international sanctions unlike anything that they have faced before.”North Korea’s No. 2 leader Kim Yong Nam threatened in an interview with a Japanese news agency that there would also be more nuclear tests if Washington continued what he called its “hostile attitude.” Kim, second to North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, told Kyodo News agency that further nuclear testing would hinge on U.S. policy toward his communist government. “The issue of future nuclear tests is linked to U.S. policy toward our country,” Kim Yong Nam was quoted as saying when asked whether Pyongyang will conduct more tests.About 29,500 U.S. soldiers are deployed in the South, a remnant of the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a cease-fire, not a formal peace treaty.A divided nationKorea became a divided country in 1945 following the capitulation of Japan at the end of the Second World War. The retreated Japanese forces from the peninsula left the Soviet troops in control of the northern-half of the country while the American forces occupied the southern-half. The victorious nations mainly the US and the former Soviet Union could never find a formula to form a unified, central government. Stalin feared a proposed election engineered by allied nations at the United Nations would rob the North of what the Soviets considered a clear victory at the ballot box since most Koreans favored the Korean Worker’s Party headed by Kim Il Song, the father of Kim Jong Il, the North current leader.A devastated war broke out in 1950 as Kim Il Song tried to unite the country. It lasted 3 years and it left over 50,000 Americans dead and the death of over one million Koreans. The war ended, with only a ceasefire, right where it began: along the 36 parallel, an imaginary dividing line splitting the two Koreas, which North Korea never accepted and feared that the American presence in the South not only threatens its very existence, but also represents the prime obstacle to an eventual reunification.Furthermore, the industrial development of South Korea seems to have complicated the matter in the North Korean thinking, feeling only the possession the Ultimate weapon can deter the United states from its unspoken quest of subduing the North Korea and unifying the country under Seoul’ s control.Talking tough to North Korea: A strategic blunderJapan took steps to punish North Korea for the test, prohibiting its ships from entering Japanese ports and imposing a total ban on imports from the impoverished nation. North Korean nationals are also prohibited from entering Japan, with limited exceptions, the Cabinet Office said in a statement released after an emergency security meeting late Wednesday.A total ban on imports and ships could be disastrous for North Korea, whose produce like clams and mushroom earns precious foreign currency on the Japanese market. Ferries also serve as a major conduit of communication between the two countries, which have no diplomatic relations.Tokyo has already halted food aid and imposed limited financial sanctions against North Korea after it test-fired seven missiles into waters between Japan and the Korean peninsula in July, including one capable of reaching the United States. A report that North Korea may have conducted a second test rattled nerves Wednesday before the Japanese government said there was no indication of a blast.Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported around 8:30 a.m. that unidentified government sources were saying “tremors” had been detected in North Korea. South Korean and U.S. seismic monitoring stations said they hadn’t detected any indications of a second test, findings backed by White House spokesman Blair Jones.Back in 2004, specifically back to September of 2004 in the midst of the presidential race between George Bush and John Kerry, North Korea threatened to initiate nuclear weapons tests. There was no certainty that North Korea’s weapons programs were advanced enough to perform significant testing. But, as concerned international arms control officials attempted to pin down details of what was happening at a potential test site in the country, Kerry put the latest development in perspective by suggesting that the mere fact of North Korea’s threaten was evidence of failed diplomacy.“The Democrats condemned the Bush administration for rejecting direct diplomacy in favor of the cowboy president’s bluster and blunder,” notes the liberal newspaper The Nation. “Noting that the White House had failed to effectively engage North Korea’s concerned neighbors and other nuclear powers in the process,” continued The Nation. In a series of speeches on strategic and international policies conducted during his presidential bid, Kerry was blunt. “The Chinese are frustrated, the South Koreans, the Japanese are frustrated” by what he described as the president’s neglectful and “ideologically driven” approach.””I think that this is one of the most serious failures and challenges to the security of the United States, and it really underscores the way in which George Bush talks the game but doesn’t deliver,” Kerry continued, positioning himself as one of the most experienced observers of arms control issues in Congress.Kerry’s comments barely earned a day of attention from the “drive-by media, and they were ridiculed and attacked by conservative commentators and political operatives.” White House spokesman Scott McClellan accused him of promoting policies that would allow North Korea “to dupe the United States,” while claiming that Bush was “pursuing a plan that will lead to the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program…”Could the situation be different on the Korean Peninsula if Kerry were elected president? Probably not. Most experts agree that only the removal of US presence in Korea could pave the way for a peaceful coexistence among nations of South Asia. The prospect of a nuclear North Korea had long been factored in by the hawks in Washington; and if there were negotiations between the United States and the PDK, it was precisely to prevent the Pyongyang regime from doing just that: exploding a bomb to enter the nuclear club.Note: Dr. Ardain Isma is the chief editor of CSMS Magazine. He can be reached at publisher@csmsmagazine.org.Also see North Korea: https://csmsmagazine.org/news.php?pg=20060707I158

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