Korea – North vs South and why it matters to America

Between them, President Kim Jong Un, his father and grandfather have ruled North Korea with a firm grip for the last 85 years.  The current President is a particular worry to his neighbours and to America not because he’s partial to vast parades, massive firework displays but principally because his nuclear power ambitions, which might have seemed like a joke a decade ago, may be about to be realised.  But then again, who can we trust – a military expert suggests that some of the military equipment on display at the most recent outing in Pyongyang was fake.  (Am I alone in flinching when I hear that ‘fake’ word!).

President Trump with his transactional view of politics is dealing with the most pressing policy concern of his presidency and evidently his immediate tactic, as opposed to strategy, is to put pressure on both China and Japan to use their respective levers of power in a pincer movement to force North Korea’s President to forfeit his nuclear arsenal on the condition that he will not be forced to step down, i.e., no regime change.  Sound familiar?  China’s role, in particular, is critical in the sense that North Korea’s very survival is dependent on China not least for its food and fuel.

Realistically, North Korea is probably still two or three years away from having the ability to strike the west coast of America – 620 miles is the distance missiles reached in February this year.  The citizens of South Korea have been living with the threat from its belligerent neighbour for decades and to some extent normal life goes on but in the back of their minds must always be that insecurity that a devastating assault could happen at any point – if indeed one were to have a mere second’s warning of imminent death in those circumstances.

When Vice President Pence visited South Korea last week,  as he stood on the precipice facing North Korea, he threatened that “all options were on the table” in response to the  President Kim’s recent ballistic missile tests, so far this year 6 launched of which 2 failed.  On his return to the U.S., he rejected the idea of negotiations but tonight the White House said that President Trump would welcome a meeting with President Kim providing the terms were acceptable, admitting that was not likely in the foreseeable future.  However, the corresponding threat remains from the U.S. that the President is not adverse to a pre emptive strike on North Korea.

South Korea is at the mercy of its Goliath of a neighbour, China, which encourages its people to avoid South Korea and boycott its goods.  In the meantime, Chinese hackers do their worst where it hurts on South Korea’s  government websites.  China’s actions in this respect are in retaliation for the South’s recent decision to invest in a reputed $1billion American missile defence system called THAAD.  Such a state of flux means turmoil throughout the region not just straddling the Yellow and Japanese Seas but in addition the South has its own domestic problems with a general election looming in the aftermath of the impeachment of the President.

Impeachment. President. War. Hacking.

If we have learned anything in the last decade in the Middle East, surely it is this, war is never the answer.