Will South Korea Attack North Korea?

On the 27th July 1953, North Korea and South Korea signed an armistice, putting to end a 3-year conflict that claimed over 5 million lives Despite regular threats of violence, the border nations have coexisted without open warfare since this agreement

In recent months, the relationship has become increasingly tense as both nations have engaged in threatening behavior, prompting concern that South Korea is planning an attack Korea split into two nations – the North and the South – in 1945 These countries became involved in the Cold War, the ideological conflict between Communism and “democratic” Capitalism, which defined twentieth century world politics The Communist North invaded the South in 1950, igniting a protracted conflict that has lasted until the present day In the intervening decades there have been several incidents where full-out war seemed imminent

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In 1974 North Korean agents tried to assassinate South Korean President Park Chung-Hee, and ended up killing his wife instead Then, Pyongyang planted a bomb on a Seoul airliner, resulting in 115 fatalities More recently, the two countries have engaged in minor naval battles in the Yellow Sea, including the sinking of a 1200 tonne South Korean corvette But in February 2016 these tensions appeared to reach a tipping point The United States and South Korea carried out its largest ever joint military exercise, rehearsing their response to a North Korean attack

Yet, for a simply hypothetical exercise it was unusually comprehensive It involved a third of the South Korean armed forces and 19,000 US military personnel, suggesting that something more sinister was afoot In September 2016, Pyongyang announced that it had successfully conducted an extremely powerful nuclear test Conservative estimates now claim its full arsenal has the capacity to destroy several large cities Dr Jeffrey Lewis of the Middlebury Institute of International Studies estimated that this blast had a yield of between 20 and 30 kilotonnes, rendering it more substantial than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945

In response, the South Korean Defence Ministry unveiled the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation Plan (KMPR) to the country’s National Assembly The plan states that South Korea will take pre-emptive military action against Pyongyang if it suspects imminent nuclear attack The announcement is alarming because North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has become increasingly vocal about his dreams of annihilating foreign countries In July 2016 he threatened to reduce America and South Korea to a “sea of fire” if they consolidated a planned anti-missile defence system on its border But the plan remains underway

As North Korean aggression increases, so does the likelihood of KMPR coming into force This announcement came just one year after South Korea announced its plans to inject its military with a further $200 billion across 5 years to combat increasing aggression from its neighbour This suggests the nation is preparing for conflict Even more controversially, in 2016 Seoul established a special government unit for masterminding the removal of North Korean officials in case of war Indeed, South Korean Defence Minister Han-Min Goo has openly stated that his teams would willingly assassinate Kim Jong-Un if he ordered an attack

But the costs of striking against North Korea would be huge The regime is notoriously bloodthirsty Allegedly, favored execution methods include being eaten alive by ravenous dogs Indeed, in September 2016 the LA Times reported that senior officials had been slaughtered for simply slouching in a meeting Senior U

S General Vincent Brooks described Kim Jong Un as a more “risk tolerant, aggressive and impulsive” leader than his father The scale of reprisal would likely be merciless Given the significant size of the North Korean nuclear arsenal , it is probable that the stakes are far too high for South Korea to strike In these extreme circumstances, we could be looking at a Mutually Assured Destruction situation In this case, two adversaries develop their military portfolios to stabilise the diplomatic relationship

As the costs of attack become too great, the chances of war are minimised Political analyst Van Jackson says North Korea could be aiming to reach a threat level “that all but guarantees its regime survival and freedom to coerce South Korea from a position of safety” Moreover, the US-South Korea military exercise takes place annually, and should not necessarily be read as a sign of imminent warfare Certainly, after six decades tensions between North and South Korea are extremely high In recent months both states have behaved in a way that suggests they are gearing up for war

Yet, given the huge human and financial costs at stake, attacking North Korea would be an extremely risky strategy In this case, it is very likely we are looking at both North and South building a strategy of Mutually Assured Destruction

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