Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cry havoc! and let slip the... oh wait, it's just North Korea... again

On March 7th, new debilitating sanctions were imposed by the UN on the impoverished totalitarian nation of the DPRK [North Korea] in response to yet another condemned underground nuclear test on February 12th, their third since 2006. Since then the bellicose rhetoric from Pyongyang has increased considerably, this time including amateurish video statements detailing the destruction of the United States and her allies.

South Korea and the Unites States began their annual joint military exercises as planned on March 11th and this led to additional threats from the DPRK stating that it has "abolished"the Korean War armistice [the UN has stated that such a pact cannot be unilaterally scrapped] and has a right to a "pre-emptive strike" on the US. In response to the US flying B-2 Spirit bombers over the Korean peninsula, North Korea cut the the military hotline between it and South Korea and in the past 24 hours has declared that it is in "a state of war" with them.

If this was any other nation, say Iran, then it would be quite serious. However due to the simple fact that this is a pretty common occurrence in Korea and almost certainly there'll be nothing major to come from it, the latest news concerning North Korea is making headlines, but is not a major concern for the world. A cursory glance at the main news headlines from Fox News this Sunday morning has the latest from Kim Jong-un in 6th place. The polar opposite of Fox, MSNBC carries a similarly urgently placed story also in 6th place with additional analysis in 7th. One needs to dig further down in Sky News or BBC news to find what's going on with the DPRK. But don't let media apathy alone set your mind at rest. While the media itself should be praised for not making a mountain out of a molehill in this case; it would be foolish to completely ignore the events of the past few weeks. 

Before a Colonel is nominated to receive his first star he has to write a lot about the political concerns and military threats globally. Despite my requests for assignment to South Korea, admittedly for dubious reasons, being declined at every stage, I have studied their patterns at length and I would like to assure all that everything will be copacetic and that there is little to worry about.

Traditionally, North Korea often creates some class of military provocation, aggressive rhetoric or show of strength around the time of US/South Korea military exercises and especially during the initial four months of a new South Korean president's tenure [Park Geun-hye became the first female president of the Republic on February 25th] as if to test them. As it is now and has been for some time, just words.

Kim Jong-un is a relatively untested leader. The sanctions and the establishment of a UN commission to investigate human rights abuse in his country have damaged his reputation and he may see the threat of war as a way to both rally the people behind him and also boost his military credentials.

North Korea is faced with two choices: either "go ballistic" and reap the whirlwind of destruction or abandon it's nuclear plans and negotiate it's way out of international isolation. While they do not have the technology to carry out most of it's aggressive threats, they do have enough conventional weapons near the South Korean border to kill thousands in Seoul. Both Koreas now have relatively untested leaders and the hope is that that a mis-step by one of them would not lead to conflict.

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