After North Korea conducted further ballistic missile tests at the end of 2022, South Korea requested joint nuclear drills with the United States on Monday. In 2023, will tensions between the two Koreas become so severe that they will finally explode?
The beginning of 2023, after a year of North Korean missile tests, is strikingly similar to the beginning of 2022. Another short-range missile launch is scheduled for January 1 by Pyongyang. This followed three nuclear tests conducted by North Korea on New Year’s Eve.
On Sunday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un declared that his country’s nuclear arsenal would increase “exponentially” in 2017. Producing a large number of nuclear-tipped missiles is one option. The North Korean dictator also referred to South Korea as a “target” in his speech.
“Pyongyang has avoided the term for a long time because it wants to retain the idea of the “reunification of two fraternal peoples,” according to Christoph Bluth.”
“Associate researcher at the International Team for the Study of Security in Verona, Danilo delle Fave: has stated that “we are in a very serious scenario” with North Korea given recent occurrences.”
In the first incident, on December 27, North Korea defied Seoul’s air defense system by deploying five drones into South Korean airspace.
In Bluth’s words: “North Korea wants to establish that it could exhibit success in this field,” something that its southern neighbor, South Korea, had not yet done despite South Korea’s technological edge.”
The interview with former South Korean President Yoon Seok-yeol was published in Monday’s issue of the Chosun Ilbo. In it, he argued that the “nuclear umbrella” and “extended deterrence” provided by the United States are insufficient to ensure the safety of South Koreans. Yoon’s surprising request for joint nuclear exercises with the US stunned many onlookers.
Despite what some may think, Seoul has no plans to acquire nuclear weapons, according to Bluth.
Nonetheless, della Fave stressed that any nuclear exercises conducted with the United States would be “unprecedented” for both Seoul and Washington.
According to della Fave: “these drills would be a rehearsal for a possible “both conventional and nuclear” reaction to a North Korean nuclear attack. The United States would demonstrate how a nuclear retaliation against North Korea could be launched from South Korean territory.”
According to della Fave: “if a non-NATO country received training on nuclear weapons, it would be a first.” When it comes to non-NATO allies, South Korea is one of the United States’ most valuable partners.
Reuters reports that the Biden administration has declined to corroborate Chosun Ilbo’s claims that Washington is receptive to the notion. South Korean reporters asked US Vice President Joe Biden if there were any plans for joint nuclear exercises between the two countries. A no from Biden.
Even the suggestion of these drills sends a message to Pyongyang. The purpose of bringing up the idea, as Bluth put it, is to “make North Korea aware that if they bomb, there may be a nuclear retaliation, even if South Korea doesn’t have any nuclear weapons.”
And it’s a chance to hit Kim where he’s vulnerable. The acquisition of nuclear weapons by North Korea’s southern neighbor is a major concern, according to delle Fave. While publicly displaying its nuclear might and publicly promising to not spread nuclear weapons, Seoul could do both by participating in joint drills with the United States.
Changes like this are being implemented by Yoon Seok-conservative Yeol’s government, which came to power in May 2022.
“Yoon’s government has entirely broken with his liberal predecessor’s diplomatic openness toward the North,” della Fave remarked. “Tensions are building in part because of this considerably more hardline approach toward Pyongyang.”
Even though the administration ceased using the word “enemy” in reference to North Korea in 2018, Yoon has said he intends to do so in a white paper on national security.
“North Korea, frustrated by the Trump administration’s hard line and the Biden administration’s focus on Russia and China, has instead “increased the pressure on South Korea in the hope that Seoul would persuade its American ally to soften its approach toward Pyongyang,” as Bluth put it.
Yoon has asked the United States to transfer additional weaponry to Seoul in an effort to counter North Korean aggression. In the present time, “South Korea is getting more and more military,” Bluth observed.
You shouldn’t be too negative, though. The two experts agreed that the present escalation in hostilities is unlikely to result in an all-out war. According to della Fave, North Korea is aware of its limitations since it is economically dependent on China, and China does not want the Korean peninsula to be in the middle of a war. He continued, saying that Pyongyang understands “the US can beat it militarily” regardless of what it does.
In spite of this, della Fave warned that the two nations are engaging in a risky game. The possibility of something terrible happening and everything spiraling out of control is always present, he said. This increases the potential for a disastrous accident due to North Korea’s employment of drones at a time of heightened tensions.
Even if these things don’t occur, South Korea is becoming increasingly concerned because, as Bluth pointed out, North Korea continues to test a large number of ballistic missiles. He even suggested that this might be the “new normal” from now on.
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