The situation between North Korea and South Korea has for many years been one that is filled with tension following constant attacks from both fronts from time to time. North Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as it is officially known, is backed by troops from China and Russia (formerly Soviet Union) while Republic of Korea as South Korea is officially known, is backed by troops from United States.
Although the two Korean sides have been at war with each other for a long time, the situation has been said to be one that continues to show the continuity of the cold war whereby the world super powers fight each other indirectly in another country by rallying their support on opposing camps.
North Korea has been on the spotlight for having retreated from the agreement to stop manufacturing nuclear weapons, a factor that has seen U.S and U.N forces strongly oppose its actions and continue to issue warnings that it could lead to a major fierce war. The tension between North and South Korea has in recent times escalated and put the two nations on high alert as they gather their troops in readiness for possibilities of war.
This was fueled by the events of March 23, 2010 when a South Korean warship was sunk by North Korea. To add to the conflict, North Korea claimed responsibility for last months bombing of Yeonpyeong Island near the yellow sea, which is part of the South Korea.
The two Koreans are divided by a border portion which is a region of demilitarization known as Korean Peninsula. This region was recovered after the end of the Japan rule in 1940’s after which the U.S troops took charge of the South area and the Soviet Union troops covered the northern area. After the establishment of a Communist type of government in North Korea, they started claiming the Peninsula portion and the South as a whole.
This was followed by an armed confrontation initiated by the attack of the North Korean on South Korea in 1950 which degenerated into the Korean War. North Korea received support from Soviet Union and China while South Korea was backed by The U.S and U.N troops. Even after the signing of the armistice which ended the war, the country remained divided as North Korea and South Korea and the supporting forces are still evident while confrontations still continue to be experienced even in recent times (Ho 8).
The heightened recent tensions began with the sinking of a South Korean patrol warship by the North Koreans near the border line. The Cheonan warship was on patrol in the Yellow sea which is close to the border but on the northern side, when it was attacked by a North Korean submarine causing it to sink. The incident claimed forty six lives of the South Korean sailors. The north had at first denied the involvement but reports linked all the evidence to them forcing them to accept responsibility.
The Republic of Korea (South Korea) interpreted this as a provocation to war but ceased to revenge the attack. However, the president issued an official statement saying that they were stepping up the protection measures of their territorial waters or air space and any invasion by the Northern ships or air crafts will be handled as a self-defense measure.
This step prohibited the North Korean cargo ships from sailing in the South Korean waters which was among the moves made by the South to cut links with the North among them stopping any trade affiliations. Along the border, the South Koreans made loud radio broadcasts meant to pass messages across to the North Koreans. North Korea also responded to the measures taken by the South by banning any access of the Northern waters or air space by the southern allied ships and air crafts.
Diplomatic ties between the countries also continue to be cut with the North threatening to chase South Korean government officials who were in North Korea working on a project that was jointly owned by the North and South Korea. This situation also saw allied forces lining up behind their respective links with the U.S urging South Korea to take the matter to the U.N which will in turn take measures on North Korea.
United Nations through the defense council on the other hand, which supports the South, promised to look into the matter and take actions on North Korea which in the past placed has been at logger heads with the U.N following their tests on nuclear weapons. Although china claimed that it was advocating for peace between the two nations, it was accused of backing North Korea in launching attacks on South Korea (Cross 3).
After the March incident which saw the sinking of a South Korean patrol ship, forces on the two fronts were put on high alert and before the tension could settle, bomb attacks were launched on Yeonpyeong Island near the yellow sea. The attack claimed four lives and destroyed property worth millions. The island is occupied by residents of South Korea and is located just a few miles south of the maritime border dividing the two Koreans.
The bombings were linked to North Korea prompting further elevation of the tension between the two border nations. The island has for a long time been in dispute with both North Korea and South Korea claiming ownership. The international borders recognize that Yeonpyeong Island is part of South Korea but the North has never agreed to the claims.
According to Foster, Tensions on the island have always remained high and the situation is compounded by the constant activities around the surrounding Yellow sea where heavy artilleries are usually fired by the North Korean troops claiming they are for their training drills (25).
However, these activities have been linked to the interest of the U.S and South Korean soldiers who prefer the area around the Yellow sea as their training grounds and therefore this could explain the reason for North Koreans continued firing in the Yellow sea. On November 23, 2010 heavy artillery was fired on the island a situation that continued for hours with the majority of the bombings landing on the army barracks (33).
Following the attacks on the island, South Koreans responded by firing on North Korea specifically targeting the artillery locations. They also sent fighter jets to patrol the island in readiness for any further continued attacks by the North. Further, the South echoed their previous words that they were not for an armed confrontation but issued stern warnings to the North that if another attack was launched they would not hesitate to respond using military forces.
The South Korean foreign minister also said that if North Korea was to make any further confrontation on the South, South Korea would even consider using air strikes to destroy their artillery locations. Economy wise, South Korea is flourishing and boasts a growing economy as opposed to North Korea which is an almost bankrupt nation that depends on aid mostly from South Korea to maintain their ailing economy.
Following the recent escalating tension between the two, South Korea has cut the aid that it was offering to the North. This goes to drift the ties between the two countries further apart. Both North and South Korea have since lined up their troops in readiness for a possible war starting on the Korean Peninsula (Ravin 7).
Several interpretations have been offered from differing angles as to why North Korea has increasingly continued to attack South Korea. A possible situation could be caused by the North wanting to direct attention their direction and avoiding being ignored by the rest of the world. North Korea has been ranked as the most isolated country owing to their strict policies that hinder foreigners from operating from their country. As a result less attention is being directed to the nation by the rest of the world.
In addiction, since North Korea pulled away from the treaty seeking to ban production of nuclear weapons and refusing U.N delegates from carrying out inspections in their country, it has been at logger heads with very many nations who support nuclear cessation. When North Korea recently came out publicly about their nuclear plants and weapon tests, they expected a lot of attention to be directed to that but it was not forthcoming thereby prompting them to launch attacks on the South to make their points.
The attacks could also be motivated by a cry for attention from the South who cut the links and aid to the North. North Korea is probably using a style of provoking attacks to fuel the tension which in the end will call for a negotiation which will enable them argue their positions and seek favors.
The escalation of violence may also have been as a result of North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un’s tactics to instill fear on the citizens and hence divert the efforts of those opposed to his succession. By attacking the South, an environment of a looming war is created causing the military to stay on high alert for the leader’s orders and hence increasing his power. An obvious reason for North Korea attacking the South would be their long plea to conquer the South and unite the two nations.
Their recent efforts to have South Korea support their ideals like nuclear policies have not been met with a welcoming effort by the South who continue to side with the North Korean rivals like the U.S who support shutting down of the nuclear facilities in North Korea. North Korea has in recent times been angered by the amount of praises being poured on South Korea on various world forums like the recent G20 summit (Smith 18).
Discussions had been raised concerning the November bombing of Yeonpyeong Island following North Korea’s denial of an intended and planned attacked. North Korea while responding to the recent incident said that the attack was not intentional and that it was a part of their military training and artillery tests that accidentally hit the island.
Well, while North Korea had been constantly firing on the Yellow sea and claiming that it was an intended training drill; links have been established between their actions and a possible motivation for them to be firing at that area in particular. The U.S troops, who have continually offered support to South Korea, usually prefer the area around the Yellow sea as their training ground.
The presence of U.S soldiers in South Korea and their continued opposition of the North have been linked with North Korea’s efforts to bomb the island to express their displeasure. In a statement issued after the attacks by the North Korean officials, they stated that the attack was due to the exercises of the U.S on the South. It is therefore clear to state that the attack on the island was without a doubt planned and intentional.
Worlds opposing powers have used this conflict between North and South Korea to settle their scores. This has been evidenced by the way they have continually rallied their support on opposing sides and blaming each other for the escalating conflict. The initial face-off in the Korean conflict had staged U.S against the then Soviet Union as they seek to settle their issues concerning the manufacture of nuclear weapons. This was settled by the signing of an armistice that marked the beginning of the cold war.
The two sides continued their support on the opposing sides with the U.S supporting South Korea and Soviet Union supporting the north. Recently, the tension between North and South Korea saw the entrance of China who shown their interest in aiding North Korea. The conflict has therefore put U.S against China and tension between the two has been threatened by the escalating conflict in Korea.
In its official statements, U.S has blamed China for supporting North Korea in continuing with the nuclear weapons manufacture while China says it supports peace between the two nations. Russia also continues offering its support to North Korea while U.S in the south is backed by the U.N troops.
Reporting for The Mirror, Ellis stated that China has been known to provide aid in form of oils and food to North Korea and has in the past joined forces with the north to fight the opposing U.S and South Korean troops. Their strategy in this involvement is to destabilize the U.S military power and hence their interest in an outbreak of a conflict (45).
Experts have reviewed the recent escalation in Korea and have issued warnings of a looming world war. According to the definition of a world war, a war qualifies for this category if its progression involves several countries spread in at least two continents. If the conflict in Korea breaks into a war, it would see the involvement of the U.S and U.N allied nations (who include European countries) and South Korea, face off against Russia, China and North Korea.
This is of course without considering later entrants of the war. The situation in Korea has reached critical levels and North Korea has shown readiness of war by recruiting more soldiers into their already too huge military of over a million troops.
The blame game has been evidenced on the allied nations with the U.S blaming China for their support on the North and China criticizing the U.S exercise on the South. North Korea has now come out publicly on their continuing manufacture of nuclear weapons and their intentions to sell the weapons. A nuclear war would mean fierce battle marked with a lot of casualties (Stares 8).
The magnitude of the matter now calls for everyone to show concern and prevent any further conflict as this could lead to far reaching destruction. Efforts to correct the situation would require involvement of the involved parties in a bid to stop the conflict. To ease the outcry for attention and re-establish links between North and South, a plea should be made on South Korea to continue offering humanitarian aid to the ailing North.
Clear border lines should also be drawn that divide the North and the South to evade border conflicts. The other efforts should see the allied nations make selfless efforts to cool the situation. Chinese government should be pressured to intervene and take a neutral stand in uniting the two nations. China and Russia should also cease their support for nuclear artillery production in North Korea as this could mean a serious war.
The U.S should also take a selfless stand support the re-establishment of friendly ties between the two nations as opposed to siding with South to fight the North. Efforts have already started to be seen with the involved nations taking positive steps to cool the tension.
Chinese delegates are meeting with North Korean officials in a bid to chat the way forward. Among other issues on discussion is to urge North Korea to comply with U.N’s resolutions on nuclear weapons. There have been calls for the six countries (U.S, China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, and Russia) involved to sit together and convince North Korea to shut down their nuclear programs.
In conclusion, the situation between North and South Korea is far from being solved and there have been reports of establishment of more Uranium-enrichment program that will see more nuclear weapons production in North Korea. South Korea on the other hand has sworn to carry out a military exercise where they open live fire towards the north. This could be signs of a looming disaster that could lead to a major world conflict.
Cross, V. “Origins of North Korea and South Korea Cheonan Warship Conflict” International Affairs.2010. Print.
Ellis, M. “North Korea Third World War Threat” The Mirror 11 Jan. 2003. Print.
Foster, P. “North Korea bombs South Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island” Telegraph 8 Dec. 2010. Print.
Ho, S. “China Rejects US Criticism of Enabling N. Korea to Build Its Arsenal” Voice of America. 2010. Print.
Ravin, S. “South Korea and North Korea Conflict” Squidoo .2010.Print.
Smith, J. “Understanding North Korea’s Artillery Attack” Korean conflict.2010. Print.
Stares, P. “Military Escalation in Korea” Conflict Prevention. 2010. Print.