2. Current Situations on the Korean Peninsula
KOREA REPORT(2017 NO. 3)
2. Current Situations on the Korean Peninsula
□ The ROK-US Ulchi-Freedom Guardian(UFG) military drill, which began on August 21, will become pivotal to the escalating tension on the Korean Peninsula.
○ The tension between NK and the US has seriously aggravated in the series of recent exchange of aggressive words between the two countries. The UFG drill will mark a tipping point amid the escalating situation.
○ Unprecedently, US Admiral Harry Harris of US Pacific Command (PACOM) and many other senior US military officials visited Korea. It is expected that they will make a strong statement against NK at the press conference which is to be held after the UFG drill.
- Meanwhile, in comparison to last year, it is reported that the participating US forces in the UFG have decreased by 7,500 troops; B-1B strategic bomber and other US strategic military assets will not be deployed in the exercise.
○ On August 22, the spokesperson of NK army at Panmunjom stated that the UFG drill is the US’s military provocation, and that the US will not be able to avoid “ruthless retaliation and punishment” by NK.
- North Korea’s military provocations around the period of ROK-US joint military exercises have continued for many years including its launching of ‘Submarine Launched Ballistic Missile(SLBM)’ in August 2016.
□ Nonetheless, it seems highly probable that the current tension between North Korea and the US may thaw and transition to ‘dialogues,’ should North Korea refrain from additional military provocations during the ROK-US joint military exercises.
○ Although the fierce exchange of aggressive statements between North Korea and US rapidly aggravated their relations, including NK’s recent missile threat against Guam and US President Trump’s statement to unleash ‘fire and fury’ on Pyongyang, their relations show signs of relative amelioration.
- North Korea leader Kim Jong-un recently stated that NK will watch the US’s behaviors ‘for a bit longer’ before deciding to attack Guam.
- The spokesperson of the US Department of the State proposed ‘suspension of nuclear test, missile-test launch, and actions that destabilize the region’ as the three conditions for NK-US dialogue.
○ The Trump administration’s ‘maximum pressure and engagement policy’ dovetails with the Moon administration’s stance on the North Korea policy to use ‘both sanctions and dialogues’
- During President Moon’s press conference marking his 100 days in office, President Moon emphasized that “although we may place tougher pressure on NK, it is an international consensus that NK problem has to be solved peacefully in the end.”
- The Trump administration declared the following as the four principles of their North Korea policy: i) the US will not accept NK as nuclear power, ii) the US will implement sanctions and pressure on NK, iii) the US will not seek regime change in NK, and lastly iv) the US will solve the problems through dialogue.
- US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke after the US-Japan Foreign and Defense Ministerial Meeting on August 17, that ‘Although the US is ready to respond militarily against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, diplomatic measures are preferable.’
□ While the Moon administration actively participate in reopening dialogues on the Korean Peninsula, the government should also prepare for such upcoming changes in the region.
○ During ‘August 15 Liberation Day’ speech, President Moon said that ‘there cannot be any military actions on the Korean Peninsula without the consent of South Korean government’ - declaring his strong determination to solve NK problem by utilizing both dialogues and sanctions.
- As President Moon reemphasized diplomacy and dialogues as the fundamental principles to NK problem, the speech delivered the Korean government’s strong determination to both US and North Korea.
○ Nevertheless, the government should remain alert and strengthen its defense for possibile military provocations by North Korea during the UFG drill which extends to August 31 as well as until September 9, day of the foundation of NK.
- The administration should urge NK to refrain from additional military provocations and threats, while demonstrating the administration’s commitment and readiness for strong response against any North Korea’s provocations on the basis of firm ROK-US combined defense system.
○ At the same time, the administration needs to begin now to prepare for measures to expand the room for Korea’s ‘leading role’ on NK problem – in cooperation with the US - should dialogues open between North Korea and the US.
- Roadmap has to be set for the second stage of President Moon’s ‘Freeze first, then Denuclearize’ NK policy – how to go about negotiation on denuclearization on the basis of shared perception on North Korea between Korea and the US.