Tensions have once again flared between North Korea and it’s southern neighbor. The latest conflict has the communist nation declaring a state of war while concurrently insisting, “nuclear armed forces represent the nation’s life, which can never be abandoned.”
North Korea has listed among it grievances the latest cycle of sanctions imposed by the U.S. and United Nations which, in turn, were a response to a nuclear test the North Koreans conducted in February. Joint U.S.-South Korean military training has also frustrated the North, and is regarded by the country as a provocation.
In response to recent North Korean threats, the U.S. flew F-22 stealth fighter jets to its South Korean ally on Sunday to engage in military drills. The highly publicized move was followed with the deployment of a Navy missile-defense ship near South Korea.
However, the recent developments do not appear to indicate an impending clash between the two countries. White House press secretary, Jay Carney, has stated that North Korean threats have not been coupled with any significant military mobilization. “We are not seeing changes to the North Korean military posture such as large-scale mobilizations or positioning of forces,” Carney clarified Monday.
The consensus amongst foreign policy analysts is that North Korea is once again voicing empty threat of full-scale confrontation to draw attention to its complaints, and that the likelihood of the conflict escalating significantly is remote. What has become apparent is South Korea’s diminished tolerance towards North Korean provocations. Park Geun-hye, the new South Korean leader, made it clear that any aggression would be met with a swift response. President Geun-hye instructed military leaders on Monday that if North Korea attacks, they “must respond strongly at the first contact with them without any political consideration.”
The role of the U.S. has largely been one of deterrence. The deployment of Navy ships and fighter jets are primarily aimed at indicating to North Korean that threats will not go unanswered. The prospect of a preemptive strike against North Korea is not likely. It is doubtful that North Korea will respond with any major provocation. What can be expected is more bellicose rhetoric.
In the meantime, what is of most importance is to be apprehensive of American political pundits who beat the drum of war. What is to be done with North Korea, after all, is not a question the U.S. must answer alone.