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

    Leaving Scalia Replacement to 2017 Would Mean Unusually Long Vacancy

    History of high court shows Obama not in unique situation during final year of presidency

    US Fact Checkers Debunk Some Republican Presidential Candidate Claims 

    Slim evidence for several claims made by Republican presidential candidates at their last debate ahead of next Saturday's key nominating election in South Carolina

    Uganda Presidential Debate a Small Victory for Democracy

    In homes and bars across country, Ugandans were fixated on their screens as eight political candidates running for president took part in national debate

    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.
    New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Ugandai
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    February 12, 2016 9:29 PM
    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video Refugees in Kenya Vie to Compete in Rio Olympics

    In Kenya, refugees from other African nations are training at a special camp and competing for a limited number of slots in this year's Rio Olympics under the flag of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Ngong, this is a first in Olympic history.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.