North Korea seemed to surprise the jittery world Monday saying it will not retaliate despite “reckless provocations” from the South, which held live-fire drills on the flashpoint island of Yeonpyeong, with a small contingent of American personnel helping with the 90-minute plus war games.
North Korea’s stepping back from a bloody confrontation with the South, near the hot spot and, the highly sensitive Northern Limit Line (NLL), drawn up by the U.S.-led UN Command at the end of the 1950-53 Korean War without the North’s consent, at least signals some goodwill to ease up the tense atmosphere smelling gun powder on the Peninsula, but, some Western media continue to pour scorn upon the North’s offer saying it is a gesture “to shun some of the diplomatic and economic pressure and appease China while not giving away very much when it comes to the weapons program”.
Ironically, it appears that any offer issued by Pyongyang will unexceptionally draw the “cautious” responses from Washington, even including the latest one inviting nuclear inspections back to the reclusive soil.
People could not help but wonder what the U.S. intends to do—-to bring the Korean Peninsula back to peace as it always preaches, or to push the Koreas to the brink of an all-out war? Evidently, military exercises near the NLL is sensitive, as during the regular show-of-force drills, to which Washington has always openly and firmly given strong backing, a miscalculation or a stray test firing could spark a clash or ignite a tit-for-tat fire exchange which could quickly spiral out of control, if it is not a second Korea War, spelling disasters for both sides.
Additionally, Pyongyang regards military exercises by South Korea and the United States with genuine unease, fearing the maneuvers could be a smokescreen for a real attack. Therefore, the North will, on the one hand, remain nuclear-armed at any cost, and on the other, it is readying to take what the U.S. and its allies see as reckless actions.
By analysis, the combined high-tech militaries of South Korea and the United States might overwhelm the defiant North, but an all-out war must be a lose-lose scenario for both sides, and especially deals a fatal blow to the market-oriented South, which would be faced with both the heavy costs of war and the unbearable loss from economic damages.
And, neither side could gain from a war-torn Peninsula. A reunification predominated by the South will never occur. Likewise, North Korea will definitely face a more bitter reality and its people suffer more.
To reverse the escalation, Beijing and Russia have, separately, called for an emergency meeting of regional powers to talk about the volatile situation. But Washington, Tokyo and Seoul are uneasy about the proposal as they don’t want to be seen to be “rewarding Pyongyang” for its “belligerence”, if agreeing to hold talks. Because of the sharp divergence of views, the U.N. Security Council could not even agree on a statement meant to cool tensions on the peninsula on Monday. Also, the prospect for a resumption of stalled six-party talks seems bleak.
But the North Korean guns that had shelled the island after a similar drill last month stayed silent in response to the provocative incident by the South, bringing a measure of relief in a crisis lurking along one of the world’s most heavily fortified frontiers.
In the face of a tinderbox, to trigger or to defuse the impending danger is not a choice of no consequence but a wisdom defining life or death. The U.S., as a close ally to South Korea, should be highly conscious of the destruction that the regular war games could bring about, rather than obstinately supporting the saber-rattling exercises while being heedless of its ally’s danger and safety.
Further, the U.S. should by no means pressure China by taking advantage of China’s peace-seeking mindset, or pacifism as it deems, in that China is unwilling to involve in any crisis, but it has little fear of any risks therefrom.
It is a crystal clear point that if the disaster simmering on the Korean Peninsula could put China into the knee-deep water, there must be somebody else who would get drowned.
By Li Hongmei
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