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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    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.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora