Tension on the Korean Peninsula is escalating sharply, with Washington and Pyongyang getting on each other’s nerves with blunt threats and warnings.
The US intelligence community assessed that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that can fit inside its intercontinental ballistic missile, according to the Washington Post.
The secretive nation is projected to field nuclear ICBMs capable of striking the US mainland next year.
If the assessment is correct, the lives of Americans as well as the basis of security on the Korean Peninsula will be threatened.
US President Donald Trump warned Tuesday that North Korea will be met with “fire and fury” should it stick to ambitions to hit the US with ballistic missiles.
Just hours after his warning, the communist state said it was considering plans for missile strikes near the US Pacific territory of Guam, where strategic military assets are deployed, and a day later became more specific, saying it will fire four intermediate range ballistic missiles into the surroundings of the island. It threatened not only the US but also the South, using provocative words such as a sea of fire, a nuclear war and tragic end.
Of course, the recent buildup in tension on the Korean Peninsula has been caused by the North’s threats, but it is to some extent attributable to the personalities of the two leaders.
Both are unbending and unpredictable.
If one side takes a misguided action at the other side’s blunt warnings or bold provocations, their confrontation might get out of hand.
Should the North fire missiles into the sea near Guam, the US is likely to consider military response seriously.
The situation on the peninsula is already volatile enough.
The rising tension must end in a war of words.
Considering that tension was sparked by the North’s rapid development of nukes and missiles, the South is required to be more alert than ever before to its grave security situation.
The government must monitor the situation closely and respond actively and resolutely.
What Pyongyang seeks through ICBMs is to foster insecurity in the South, weaken Washington’s North Korea policy and break the US-South Korea alliance.
The government needs to show the nation that it is well prepared to counter military provocations from the North.
Wisdom is needed also to use the rising tension as an opportunity to cement the alliance further.
Complacent perceptions of North Korea should have no place in dealing with security issues. The North does not target ICBM threats only at the US. It does not possess nuclear weapons for self-defense but as a means of war. Just because the communist state is poor does not mean it is unable to wage a war.
The South must face the reality and prepare for scenarios, including the worst-case one.
The government should complete the installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense antimissile system as soon as possible, while hastening to develop its own missiles shields.
The North’s deployment of nuclear-tipped ICBMs is a game changer which will shake US strategic position in the region.
It will weaken Washington’s nuclear deterrence, which is the basis of Korea-US alliance.
In a situation where the North can threaten America with nuclear attack, using force against the North will not be as easy as before.
Trust in the nuclear umbrella the US provides to the South can be shaken. Then, it needs to seek a “balance of terror” to counter the North’s nuclear weapons. Now is the time to start reviewing nuclear armament.
If Washington opposes arming the South with nuclear weapons for fear of a nuclear domino effect in Northeast Asia, Seoul needs to consider asking Washington to deploy tactical nuclear weapons in its forces stationed in South Korea.
If the principle of denuclearization cannot be broken, South Korea declaring that it will seek nuclear armament is worth consideration. It could help check the North as a first step toward the balance of nuclear threats.