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Kevin Bayona: North Korea is a dangerous nuclear power

Posted: March 21, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 21, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

Many Americans may find it difficult to believe, but North Korea and its imperious leader, Kim Jong-un, have yet again hurled a threat to wipe South Korea and the United States off the face of the Earth with a nuclear strike.

We have heard the same empty threats for years; many of us simply shrug them off and ignore North Korea’s contempt for the United States.

However, recent events should push Americans and South Koreans alike to reconsider the reality of the threat posed by the rancorous North.

Last week North Korea announced it has withdrawn from the 60-year armistice that ended hostilities between North and South Korea and ended the Korean War in 1953.

This latest move, along with the nuclear test it carried out recently, has many in South Korea and the United States worried about a possible conflict erupting.

The United Nations has said neither party to the armistice may unilaterally withdraw from it, so it is still, in fact, in effect. But as the laws of international relations hold, nation-states will do as they please despite the empty musings of a powerless body like the U.N.

North Korea’s withdrawal from the armistice is particularly worrying because the two Koreas have technically still been in a state of war with each other since 1953, restrained only by the armistice.

The North’s withdrawal from the armistice implies a decision to re-initiate armed conflict in a war that never ended — and in which the United States is treaty-bound to fight and defend South Korea.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency reported "(The U.S. and South Korea) would be well advised to keep in mind that the armistice agreement is no longer valid and (North Korea) is not restrained by the North-South declaration on non-aggression."

Neither the United States nor South Korea is taking North Korea’s threats lightly, and the two have been conducting joint military exercises in recent days.

The United States has deployed B-52 Stratofortresses and carried out simulated nuclear bombing raids over North Korea. Pentagon Press Secretary told reporters, "It’s not any secret that we are in the midst of sending a very strong signal that we have a firm commitment to the alliance with our South Korean allies."

The United States has also announced that it will deploy additional ground-based missile interceptors on the West Coast. The South Koreans have been conducting various military exercises near the de-militarized zone that separates the two Koreas.

A looming war involving the United States and South Korea versus North Korea would only signal the beginning of what could become a cataclysmic implosion of the balance of power in East Asia.

China would like to see peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, but it also prefers the United States back down and cease all military exercises and missile interceptor deployments.

A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry recently said "bolstering missile defenses will only intensify antagonism, and it doesn’t help to solve the issue."

China is likely more concerned over the strategic effect those missile interceptors will have over its own security and influence in the region.

Many South Koreans are now calling for South Korea to adopt its own nuclear deterrent, although it is widely assumed the United States will defend the South under its "nuclear umbrella" in the event of any nuclear attack from the North.

The possibility of a nuclear-capable South Korea is fraught with the potential of igniting a nuclear arms race that would likely result in a domino effect in which Japan and even Taiwan would follow suit.

Such a scenario would raise the level of tension and danger in East Asia to a point not seen since the Triple Entente and the Central Powers dominated Europe at the beginning of the twentieth century.

We all know how that turned out — only this time none of us may live to figure out where it all went wrong.

Kevin Bayona is a Valencia resident. He earned a BA in international relations and political science from Fairfield University, studied global affairs at New York University, and is a member of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council.

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