News / Asia

Legacy of Unresolved Korean Conflict Plagues US Policy

US veterans leave South Korea's national cemetery in Seoul after paying tribute to their colleagues killed during the Korean War, 23 June 2010
US veterans leave South Korea's national cemetery in Seoul after paying tribute to their colleagues killed during the Korean War, 23 June 2010

The end of the Korean War in 1953 did not end the hostilities between North and South Korea, or with the United States. U.S. administrations have been grappling with how to solve a problem like North Korea for decades.

In Seoul Friday, at a ceremony honoring the Korean War dead, General Walter Sharp, the commander of U.S. forces in Korea sounded a familiar call.

"True peace cannot exist when North Korea resorts to force and violence. Therefore we call on North Korea to cease its provocations and other aggressive acts."

General Sharp also warned that further provocations will be dealt with swiftly and decisively.

Seoul's accusation that North Korea sank one of its warships last March has again raised concerns about stability in the region.

It is a familiar situation for Washington. In 1969, the North Korean military shot down a U.S. reconnaissance plane over the Sea of Japan, sending defense strategists scrambling to come up with a response. Recently declassified documents at the National Security Archive in Washington show that during that time, former U.S. President Richard Nixon considered full-scale war using tactical nuclear weapons.

Former US President Richard Nixon (FILE)
Former US President Richard Nixon (FILE)

President Nixon was quick to demonstrate America's presence in the region said Robert Wampler, a senior fellow at the National Security Archive.

"Nixon decided to resume reconnaissance flights, you know, more armed escort to in essence warn North Korea that if this happens again, the response will be much more severe,"  Wampler said.

The newly elected president and his key advisors, including National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, came up with at least two dozen plans targeting North Korea's military. One, code-named FRESH STORM, involved taking out Pyongyang's military air power.  Another, code-named FREEDOM DROP, called for the select use of tactical nuclear weapons on command centers, air fields and naval bases.

Initial casualty estimates were modest, ranging from 100 to several thousand civilian deaths. But Nixon's team soon realized that striking North Korean targets could escalate into a bigger conflict than they wanted, said Wampler.

"In the end, it was always seen that the risk of setting off a broader conflict or even war always seemed to be greater than any possible benefit to be had."

Ultimately, President Nixon and his advisors took no military action, leaving diplomacy the only remaining option. It is a pattern repeated by U.S. presidents ever since.

After North Korea tested nuclear weapons in 2006 and 2009, analysts say U.S. war strategists debated whether to reign in the Pyongyang government with force. Instead, North Korea's provocations were addressed with sanctions at the U.N. Security Council.

Since then, said Wampler of George Washington University, military action has become even less likely because of North Korea's increased military strength.

North Korea says its nuclear program is a key defense against what it considers to be a hostile U.S. policy. It has pulled out of international nuclear talks and shown no indication of returning.

Despite the dramatic changes in world politics in the last 60 years, the standoff over North Korea appears frozen in time.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Official Pleased With Ebola Containment Measure

Official says three-day sensitization effort will help reduce infection rate of Ebola disease nationwide More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid