Nord- und Südkorea, 2013
Peace Network, Korea
Dear America, Don’t Throw a Stone on Thin Ice
Wook-sik Cheong (Representative of Peace Network)
May 3, 2013
The Korean Peninsula, walking on thin ice, is expected to face another crisis. The Kyodo News reported that the United States was planning to carry out Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile(ICBM) ‘Minuteman III’ test this month, which had been postponed from last month. According to the Kyodo News, a U.S. military official addressed that the missile test would be to check the missile capacity and would not target any specific countries, so North Korea should not misunderstand this launch.
After having deployed B-52, B-2 bombers, and nuclear-powered submarines in the Korean Peninsula to execute a military exercise in March, the United States will be displaying a strategic ‘nuclear triad’ that consists of nuclear-powered submarines, bombers, and ICBMs when it enforces the test-firing of its ICBM. This could prove harmful on the current situation which is about to undergo a cooling-off period after a period of heightened tensions from February through April. North Korea, which has been all eyes and ears on every word and action from the United States, is hardly expected to overlook the U.S.’s missile launch without misunderstanding.
To support this outlook, the North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman, in April 16th, said that even though the United States elected to postpone a planned ICBM test-firing, it would still be launching it in May. From this perspective, we should never exclude the possibility of another provocation such as ‘Musudan’ missile launch from Pyongyang in reaction to the U.S.’s ICBM launch.
A potential undesirable scenario is as follows: An ICBM launch from Washington → a ballistic missile launch from Pyongyang → additional sanctions on North Korea from the UN Security Council → the North’s fourth nuclear test → worsening of the crises in the Korean Peninsula.
While the United States pronounces reliability test as an official reason behind its missile launch, it has already deployed 450 ‘Minuteman IIIs’ after numerous tests. In addition, the United States provides a nuclear umbrella for South Korea and Japan, by which North Korea undeniably becomes one of its targets of ICBM.
The United States, having postponed an ICBM test-firing scheduled in April, announced its awareness that “such a test could be misinterpreted by some to support the argument that the United States was aggravating the crisis with the North,” and that it wanted to avoid “such misunderstandings and manipulations.”
The United States is about to enforce a missile test – expecting that Pyongyang will not view such a move as an escalation of the current crisis. Such expectations are simply unrealistic. Washington is also fully aware that the ICBM test could be used by the North as the rationale for other provocations.
It is possible that the United States has ‘hidden intentions’ behind such a launch. Washington has expressed a strong desire for Japan and South Korea to conclude Korea-Japan General Security of Military Information Agreement with regards to the establishment of Korea-Japan-U.S. missile defense system. Provocative actions from Pyongyang, particularly tests related to ballistic missiles could potentially expedite such a Korea-Japan military pact and Korea-Japan-U.S. missile defense system. Thus, it is probable that the United States sees no harm in the North’s ballistic missile launch in reaction to ICBM test-firing by the U.S.
The U.S., however, has to bear in mind that if such a test results in the escalation of the current crisis, many will regard it as responsible. It also has to understand that public repulsion against the Korea-Japan-U.S. MD and Korea-Japan GSOMIA is very strong in South Korea. The Park Geun-hye Government, if it pushes forward with these plans under U.S.’s pressure, is likely to face strong public dissent just as the Lee Myung-bak Government did in the summer of 2012.
The U.S. has repeatedly and quite clearly demonstrated its vast military power. In the viewpoint of many observers, their anticipated test would only aggravate efforts for a dialogue. Instead of firing ever more advanced missiles into the sky on the Pacific Ocean, the U.S. must seriously consider diplomatic avenues such as sending a special envoy to Pyongyang. Such a move would be in the best interest of all parties involved and will serve as a beacon of hope for a brighter future.