News / Asia

    US Show of Force in Korean Peninsula Helpful?

    A truck moves past U.S. Army Patriot missile air defense artillery batteries at U.S. Osan air base in Osan, south of Seoul, April 5, 2013.
    A truck moves past U.S. Army Patriot missile air defense artillery batteries at U.S. Osan air base in Osan, south of Seoul, April 5, 2013.
    The United States' highly visible show of force on the Korean peninsula has raised some concern by analysts that such gestures may be provoking further bellicose action by North Korea rather than deterring it.

    The U.S. has used some of its most advanced stealth bombers and fighters in highly publicized annual military exercises with South Korea over the past several weeks. It is also expanding American missile-defense systems in the region and moving two guided-missile destroyers closer to the South Korean coast.

    Washington says its moves are defensive, intended to make clear it will respond decisively if North Korea follows through on its recent threats against the U.S., South Korea and other American allies in the region.

    Tensions Rising on Korean Peninsula

    • February 12: North Korea carries out third nuclear test
    • March 27: North Korea cuts military hotline with South Korea
    • March 28: U.S. B-2 bombers fly over Korean peninsula
    • March 30: North Korea says it has entered a "state of war" with South Korea
    • April 3: North Korea blocks South Korean workers from Kaesong
    • April 4: North Korea moves a missile to its east coast
    • April 9: North Korea urges foreigners to leave the South.  The U.S. and South Korea raise alert level
    • April 14: US Secretary of State John Kerry offers talks with Pyongyang if it moves to scrap nuclear weapons
    • April 16: North Korea issues threats after anti-Pyongyang protests in Seoul
    • April 29: North Korea holds back seven South Koreans at Kaesong
    • April 30: North Korea sentences American to 15 years hard labor for hostile acts
    • May 20: North Korea fires projectiles for a consecutive third day
    • May 24: North Korean envoy wraps up China visit for talks on Korean tensions
    • June 7: South Korea accepts Pyongyang's offer of talks on Kaesong and other issues
    However, some analysts are convinced the U.S. display of overwhelming military supremacy may actually reinforce Pyongyang's long-held conviction that the United States is preparing to invade the North with the nearly 30,000 American troops now stationed in South Korea.

    "If you look at U.S. policy at the moment, it seems to consist almost entirely of military intimidation of North Korea," said Remco Breuker, a professor of Korean studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands. "I think it is time to rewrite our North Korea manuals. North Korea is all but impervious to outside pressure. This isn't going to help."

    Diplomacy is the most effective way to deal with North Korea, Breuker argues. He cites the 1994 deal between the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung and former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, in which American diplomacy is credited with narrowly averting war by convincing Pyongyang to "freeze" its nuclear development work.

    The Dutch analyst says the current display of U.S. military strength may actually persuade Pyongyang that nuclear weapons are essential to its survival. As evidence of this, he points to North Korea's announcement this week that it will restart operations at a nuclear reactor that had been shut down years ago.

    Disagreement on "show of power"

    Daniel Pinkston of the International Crisis Group in Seoul disputes Breuker's skepticism, and the notion that displaying U.S. military power will not deter Pyongyang.

    On the contrary, Pinkston says, North Korea is more likely to attack when it detects weakness in its foes.

    "I think these types of exercises and trainings send a very clear message that deters and greatly reduces the likelihood of North Korea lashing out in violent ways as they have done on numerous occasions over the last century," Pinkston said.

    "They're very, very cognizant of the military balance, and when they know they will take a severe beating, then they will behave. But when you're weak, then they won't behave. Then they will use violence and force to push their agenda," Pinkston added.

    The latest tensions began when North Korea conducted a successful satellite launch in December, a move the U.S. and others condemned as a banned long-range missile test. In February, it conducted a third nuclear test, in what was seen as a further step toward being able to threaten the U.S. mainland with nuclear weapons.

    The United Nations passed tough sanctions in response to the tests, which only further angered the North. It then began a campaign of high-stakes war rhetoric, threatening a nuclear attack on the U.S. mainland and a war of reunification on the Korean peninsula. It has also ditched a 60-year-old Korean War truce and threatened to close a joint industrial complex with the South.

    Related slide show

    • South Korean soldiers patrol along a barbed-wire fence, near the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul, April 5, 2013.
    • A couple looks at a map showing the demilitarized zone that separates the two Koreas, at the Imjingak pavilion in Paju, north of Seoul, April 5, 2013.
    • U.S. Army Patriot missile air defence artillery batteries are seen at U.S. Osan air base in Osan, south of Seoul, April 5, 2013.
    • South Korean soldiers take part in military training near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, north of Seoul, April 4, 2013.
    • U.S. soldiers wear gas masks while attending a demonstration of their equipment during a ceremony to recognize the battalion's official return to the 2nd Infantry Division based in South Korea at Camp Stanley in Uijeongbu, north of Seoul, April 4, 2013.
    • South Korean vehicles turn back after being refused entry to Kaesong, North Korea, April 3, 2013.
    • Anti-war protesters raise signs during a rally denouncing the joint military drills between the South Korea and the United States near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, South Korea, April 3, 2013.
    • North Koreans attend a rally against the United States and South Korea in Nampo, North Korea, April 3, 2013.
    • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un presides over a plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang March 31, 2013 in this picture released by the North's official KCNA news agency.


    Washington suspicious of Pyongyang's threats

    U.S. officials believe North Korean's young and inexperienced leader, Kim Jong Un, will not follow through on his threats to attack Seoul or any U.S. bases. They say the leadership in Pyongyang knows its own survival is at stake if it does so.

    But Breuker says he is worried the situation could spin out of control if both Washington and Pyongyang continue to brandish their military might, even if neither side wants an all-out conflict.

    "I don't think the North will start a war. Kim Jong Un isn't suicidal. I don't think the U.S. wants war, either. South Korea certainly doesn't," he said. "But even though nobody wants war, everyone is caught in this downward spiral of escalations."

    Mark Fitzpatrick, the director of the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, says the problem lies with North Korea, which has insisted on continuing its nuclear weapons program despite the U.N. sanctions.

    "I think they're deluded into thinking that preservation of the regime is based on these sophisticated weapons systems. Nobody's going to be attacking North Korea without provocation," said Fitzpatrick.

    Fitzpatrick acknowledges that Pyongyang's decision to restart its nuclear reactor could be seen as a failure of Western policy toward North Korea. But he says very few policies toward North Korea in the past several decades have been successful in reducing Pyongyang's aggressive behavior.

    "I don't think the United States can be faulted for its display of deterrent capability," said Fitzpatrick, who insists that Washington's demonstration of military supremacy is, in fact, accomplishing some of its goals.

    "One goal is to demonstrate to North Korea, lest they forget, that the United States has overpowering capabilities to destroy their country should North Korea follow through on any of these threats. But the second and probably more important purpose is to reassure South Korea that America's alliance remains firm and that extended deterrence is still very firm," he says.

    Still, Breuker says North Korea is not likely to back down any time soon.

    "The United States is the wealthiest, most powerful nation in the world," he said. "It can step away from this without losing face, while the North can't. Everything it has, everything it is, is tied up in this confrontation with the outside world. It can't back down. It won't back down. Even if this means it gets destroyed in the process."

    So far, there are few signs Pyongyang is ready to retreat from its war rhetoric. This week, it gave what it called "final approval" for an attack on the United States. It has also moved what appears to be a medium-range missile to its coast in preparation for another launch - a move that has many of its neighbors on edge.

    But there is evidence the U.S. is moving to ratchet down the tensions with Pyongyang. Several Pentagon officials told American media outlets this week they were concerned the tough U.S. response was provoking an unexpectedly strong response from North Korea. The officials said the U.S. would be pulling back from its firm posture in an attempt to reduce the possibility of clashes.

    You May Like

    Saudi Arabia’s New Female Politicians in the Other Room 

    Many in Saudi Arabia say elected representatives should share unsegregated spaces; according to a recent survey, more than half the Saudi population, both men and women, prefer to work in a segregated place

    Russia Not ‘Apologetic’ for Syria Airstrikes

    With Moscow criticized for targeting armed opponents of President Assad, Russia’s UN envoy says his country ‘acting in a very transparent manner’

    Pakistan Warns of Islamic State's Growing Reach

    Aftab Sultan, General Director General of Intelligence Bureau (IB), briefed Senate Committee in closed hearing, saying that IS-linked groups have been expanding in Pakistan

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Hovhannes from: Montevideo
    April 05, 2013 6:05 PM
    The Army of the Republic of Korea on its own has the power to wipe out the communist tyranny that is enslaving the people in the north, unify the country, and bring happiness to all Koreans on the peninsula. U.S. military help is welcome.

    by: harold from: USA
    April 05, 2013 1:32 PM
    It's time to respect the juche spirit of self-reliant independence, and let the DPRK go its own way without interference from any other nation.

    Seal the borders all around, especially the borders with China and Russia.

    Leave them strictly alone as long as they don't threaten anyone outside their nation.


    by: Son Huk from: South Korea
    April 05, 2013 12:51 PM
    the US gave $200M to Israel to develop Iron Dome... we are prepared to give Israel $800M to develop anti missiles technology for South Korea - but US said no... why??? why no???
    In Response

    by: Linus
    April 05, 2013 2:37 PM
    Because USA loves Israel and will always protect Israel. However, USA doesn't really care for South Korea. South Korea is just a brick in a game for the USA. They want to destroy North Korea and it that means they have to sacrifice South Koreans fine.

    by: Nasmina from: Seoul
    April 05, 2013 10:04 AM
    i want to tell to USA of America, we don't want your Patriot missiles - we want Iron-Dome Israel sophistication - we know what is going on
    In Response

    by: moomba from: usa
    April 05, 2013 6:05 PM
    unfortunately the north koreans possess no oil or oil interests that the world would like to possess. so, I am afraid there are no lobbyist to persuade the american govt. I personally would like to see less aide to isreal. more to america. but we spent all our money in afghanistan and Iraq and we are busy, broke, and we need to print some more money before we can help.
    In Response

    by: harold from: USA
    April 05, 2013 1:36 PM
    The Israeli military recently reminded the public that the Iron Dome anti-rocket system was not meant for defending towns and villages, but military bases and critical infrastructure

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.