As tensions remain high on the Korean Peninsula, people continue to worry about provocations from the North. Yet, many political observers rule out any possibility of an all-out war. Hanwha Economic Research Institute analyst Ko Soo-suk offers “four reasons” why the North cannot stage a war.
“First of all, North Korean head Kim Jong-un is well aware of the overwhelming military power of the United States as demonstrated during the Iraq war in the early 2000s. He would not like to become the equivalent of Saddam Hussein,” Ko said.
“Secondly, Pyongyang cannot attack Seoul because of 200,000 Chinese in the South Korean capital. China, the North’s benefactor, will not let its citizens be killed by the North.” Including unregistered people, the number of Chinese people here is estimated to be in the vicinity of 300,000 in Seoul alone as of the end of last year.
The third reason is that the North cannot match the firepower of the allied troops of South Korea and the United States, which have advanced military resources in the air and at sea on top of forces on the ground.
Finally, he said that what Kim really wants is peace not war so that he will be able to control the isolated regime for a long time. “Although the North is impoverished, Kim is the person in the country with the most. In other words, he has much to lose in the event of a war. He would not take the risk,” Ko said.
Chang Yong-seok, a researcher at the Seoul National University-affiliated Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, concurred.
“People just keep an eye on the North’s nuclear and missile threats. However, a closer examination shows that Kim has focused on such long-term agendas as educational reform or economic development,” Chang said.
“Kim prepares for the distant future under the belief that he will govern the country for a long time. Someone with such vision is not supposed to initiate a war.”
The North launched a rocket last December and carried out its third nuclear test in February to prompt the U.N. to levy stringent sanctions on the totalitarian state.
In response, the Kim Jong-un regime issued a relentless stream of verbal attacks on Seoul and Washington including threatening a preemptive nuclear attack and officially disregarding the armistice that ended the Korean War
Early this week, it pulled out all of its workers from the inter-Korean joint industrial park in Gaeseong, just north of the Demilitarized Zone, to close it down for the first time since it began operating in 2004.
These led to concerns that the North might initiate a war. Prof. Yang Moo-jin at the University of North Korean Studies played the likelihood of this down.
“What Pyongyang really wants through the warlike rhetoric and provocations is to have a meeting with the United States so that they can agree a peace treaty,” Yang said. “In addition, there are no signs of imminent war. People should not worry that much.”