Allen Young, Staff Writer
Tensions on the Korean peninsula are at an all-time high following a pre-emptive attack on South Korea by communist North Korea on Nov. 23.
North Korea fired a significant number of artillery shells on the small South Korean island of Yeongyeong. The attacks prompted South Korea to return fire and scramble fighter jets in an effort to protect itself.
The exchange resulted in the deaths of two South Korean soldiers and injured sixteen soldiers and three civilians.
North Korea cited South Korea’s refusal to stop conducting military drills around the island as the reason for the attacks. However, South Korea was fully within its rights to conduct the military drills since it was conducted within its borders and were not intended to attack North Korea in any way.
Ever since these attacks, both countries have repeatedly threatened war if they feel that the other side is continuing its provocations. As a response to the North Korean attacks, the United States has publically reassured South Korea and our allies that we are fully committed to the defense of South Korea against further North Korean attacks.
As a sign of our commitment, the United States military sent our nuclear powered supercarrier USS George Washington to South Korea following the attacks in order to hold joint military exercises with the South Korean military forces. The joint exercises serve to demonstrate the strength of our alliance with South Korea and act as a deterrent against further North Korean attacks.
The drills have solicited hostile responses from North Korea who constantly threatens retaliation using their usual provocative rhetoric.
As of late, South Korea has announced that it would hold another round of military drills that will commence on Dec. 20. In response to this, North Korea has threatened that if South Korea follows through on these drills, it will engage in “catastrophic” retaliation.
The UN Security Council met in an emergency meeting on Dec. 19 in hopes of passing a resolution against North Korea for it’s the latest escalations but such a resolution failed to pass due to strong objections from China.
China’s continued support of North Korea is extremely troubling and it diminishes the multi-lateral efforts to condemn North Korea’s belligerencies. China is currently the North’s only significant ally and has stubbornly defended North Korea despite all their belligerent acts and non-compliance with demands for nuclear non-proliferation.
Aside from holding military exercises with South Korea, the United States should also be demonstrating their commitment to the South by placing extreme pressure on China to do more to persuade North Korea to stop its escalations. China has the unique responsibility to rein in North Korea and their refusal to do so is extremely troubling.
The United States must take a more hardline approach to dealing with China. China is emerging as one of the world’s superpowers, and with this newfound power, they have become increasingly hostile and uncooperative with the United States. The United States must strongly demand that China cooperate with the international community and unanimously pressure North Korea to comply.
Despite threatening to retaliate if South Korea conducts the military drills, North Korea withdrew their threat and agreed to once again cooperate on nuclear disarmament talks.
This kind of behavior is nothing new for North Korea who likes to stand behind a shroud of secrecy and loosely dole out threats of military action and nuclear attack, only to back out of them when called on their bluff. This pattern of behavior is more reason for South Korea and the United States to be tougher on North Korea. This soft-line approach to dealing with the North has allowed them to become bullies who provoke conflict and little children who throw occasional fits when it seeks attention.
Their latest bid for attention was prompted by the fact that their “dear leader” Kim Jong-Il is nearing his final stages of his life and he must now establish some sort of leadership “credibility” for his son Kim Jong Un who is expected to take over his father’s position as the regime’s totalitarian dictator.
The United States must not allow North Korea to continue playing games and start holding them accountable for their actions. Although no one wants war to break out in the region since war would inevitably mean the loss of thousands of South Korean and American lives, the United States and South Korea cannot continue to appease North Korea in order to avoid a war that seems more and more inevitable.
Diplomacy must be used to its fullest in solving the situation in the Korean peninsula and we must continue to pressure China to join the international community in persuading North Korea to comply. But once we have exhausted all diplomatic options and North Korea still insists on continuing its nuclear developments and belligerencies, then the United States and South Korea must not be afraid to consider a military solution to finally stand up to the North Koreans.
*** Editors Note. This was originally intended to go into the January 2011 edition of the California Review, however there was an excess of content and some articles had to be moved to the blog.