Developing tensions over North Korea grim all round

EDITORIAL

Anxious eyes are on Korea as tensions rise sharply between the despotic North Korean regime and a United States with a new and unpredictable leader.

The situation has deteriorated markedly in the past 24 hours. First US Vice-President Mike Pence, in a surprise visit to the Demilitarised Zone that borders the two Koreas, warned that the US was losing patience. That drew an immediate response from North Korean officials who said they would not hesitate to use their nuclear arsenal — believed to contain up to 20 bombs.

Earlier a large military parade in the North’s capital featuring what appeared to be new long-range ballistic missiles was followed by a missile test that, although it failed, was seen as another clear challenge to the Americans.

Donald Trump has dispatched a naval flotilla to the Korean peninsula, says he will deal with the situation, and has already shown in Syria that he is prepared to call on his military.

The latest flare-up is one of many since the end of the Korean War in 1953, a conflict that incidentally cost the lives of 33 New Zealanders. North Korea and the US have never signed a peace treaty and are still technically at war. There are 30,000 US troops stationed near the 38th parallel.

The threat to South Korea is huge. Military experts say North Korea could fire up to 500,000 rounds of artillery fire on Seoul in the first hour of a conflict, effectively destroying the South Korean capital. Ten million people live within range and in some ways that is a greater threat than the nuclear one.

Japan is also terrified of a possible nuclear strike.

The prime motivation of the North Korean regime is survival and Kim Jung-Un, like his father and grandfather, is prepared to do anything to ensure that — including having his half-brother assassinated and uncle killed.

It is a powder keg that has smouldered for 60 years. There is the added complication that China is the main supporter of North Korea and must play a role in any eventual solution, though it appears to have little control over the latest Kim in power.

Anxious eyes are on Korea as tensions rise sharply between the despotic North Korean regime and a United States with a new and unpredictable leader.

The situation has deteriorated markedly in the past 24 hours. First US Vice-President Mike Pence, in a surprise visit to the Demilitarised Zone that borders the two Koreas, warned that the US was losing patience. That drew an immediate response from North Korean officials who said they would not hesitate to use their nuclear arsenal — believed to contain up to 20 bombs.

Earlier a large military parade in the North’s capital featuring what appeared to be new long-range ballistic missiles was followed by a missile test that, although it failed, was seen as another clear challenge to the Americans.

Donald Trump has dispatched a naval flotilla to the Korean peninsula, says he will deal with the situation, and has already shown in Syria that he is prepared to call on his military.

The latest flare-up is one of many since the end of the Korean War in 1953, a conflict that incidentally cost the lives of 33 New Zealanders. North Korea and the US have never signed a peace treaty and are still technically at war. There are 30,000 US troops stationed near the 38th parallel.

The threat to South Korea is huge. Military experts say North Korea could fire up to 500,000 rounds of artillery fire on Seoul in the first hour of a conflict, effectively destroying the South Korean capital. Ten million people live within range and in some ways that is a greater threat than the nuclear one.

Japan is also terrified of a possible nuclear strike.

The prime motivation of the North Korean regime is survival and Kim Jung-Un, like his father and grandfather, is prepared to do anything to ensure that — including having his half-brother assassinated and uncle killed.

It is a powder keg that has smouldered for 60 years. There is the added complication that China is the main supporter of North Korea and must play a role in any eventual solution, though it appears to have little control over the latest Kim in power.

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