Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un keep trading insults and threats, raising fears of a military conflict between their feuding countries.
On Monday, North Korea accused Trump of declaring war and warned it will do whatever it takes to defend itself.
The White House rubbished that claim, calling it beyond absurd.
So, what is the truth? When you cut through all the fiery rhetoric, is war between the US and its allies and North Korea really going to happen?
Experts warn the likelihood of all-out conflict remains higher than ever and diplomacy is the only way to avoid a catastrophic war on the Korean Peninsula.
20,000 killed every day
If war with North Korea did break out, the effects would be felt across the globe, causing widespread chaos and mass casualties.
Writing in the Los Angeles Times, journalist and author Barbara Demick revealed the devastating toll a conflict would have.
Retired US Air Force brigadier general Rob Givens told Demick there would only be one way the war would end. “With North Korea’s defeat — but at what cost?” he said.
According to Givens, around 20,000 people would be killed each day — and that’s before nuclear weapons were even used.
Demick’s article painted a terrifying outline of how quickly war could escalate, starting with a single North Korean missile towards Guam, followed by a US air strike in retaliation.
US and South Korean troops could be targeted in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) while Seoul’s 25 million residents could suffer next.
Nuclear disarmament campaigner John Hallam told News.com.au that the prospect of such a conflict taking place was looking more and more likely.
Along with North Korea, he said Seoul would also be completely destroyed.
“One possibility, whose probability I do not rate especially high, is that the US does succeed in a ‘splendid first strike’ that takes out or renders inoperable all of the DPRK’s nuclear and/or conventional forces in a fairly short time, say, 24-48 hours,” he said.
“Much more likely is that the DPRK will commence a massive bombardment of Seoul.”
“It has thousands of artillery pieces just over the border, and for casualty number, for this, I’ve seen figures ranging from 100,000 up to a million. Whatever, even without nukes it will be devastating.”
Professor of International Security and Intelligence Studies John Blaxland warned this crisis could enter a downward spiral fast.
The director of Australian National University’s Southeast Asia Institute told News.com.au the “dangerous ratcheting up of the rhetoric made armed confrontation one step closer and, sadly, more likely.”
“The risk of war is now demonstrably greater than before,” he said. “The United States has been put on notice by Kim Jong Un, who has established a track record of following through on most of his threats. This is galling and hardly something President Trump will respond to kindly.”
While the U.S. has denied it has declared war on North Korea, Blaxland said Trump will find it hard not to bite the bait and respond and that he should tread very carefully.
Blaxland said Pyongyang’s threat of shooting down U.S. strategic bombers should not be ignored either, as its forces were more than capable of carrying this out. “Still, the prospect of a direct North Korean hit on a U.S. aircraft operating outside of North Korean airspace remains questionable,” he said.
“The U.S. Air Force has highly advanced threat warning and layered defense mechanisms for its fleet of combat aircraft. So Kim has to tread warily as well. He can’t afford to attempt to strike and fail.”
“But if he does, that would generate a strong demand for retaliation and it is the prospect of retaliation that points to the heightened prospect of rapid escalation and a catastrophic descent into outright war.”
Blaxland said it wouldn’t be long before other countries including Australia would be dragged in. He said Australia has aircraft and warships which could be deployed at short notice in support of the U.S. and South Korean forces.
China would also be watching and would follow the conflict extremely closely.
Bruce Bennett, a Rand Corporation analyst, told the Associated Press that “what we see is another case of North Korean ‘coercion by bluster.’”
“The North Korean regime is trying to convince the United States and President Trump in particular to back down,” he said.
Professor of Political Science at South Korea’s Pusan National University John Kelly tweeted that Trump appeared to be bating North Korea and said his remarks were only fuelling tensions.
North Korea expert Dr. Leonid Petrov, a visiting fellow at the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific, pointed out the war in Korea has been going on for the last 67 years.
“We are quickly approaching its final stage, where peace will be finally reached with or without the DPRK on the peninsula,” he told News.com.au. “We have minimal engagement with the Pyongyang regime and, therefore, the impact of this showdown will be minimal for Australia.”
However, New York-based political analyst and Asian specialist Sean King told News.com.au he didn’t believe war was on the cards and these displays of verbal bombast were nothing new for North Korea.
“It’s also clear that President Trump threatened to strike North Korea only if its forces first attacked us, or our allies,” he said.
King also said what North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said wasn’t that important as his own citizens wouldn’t ever hear what he had to say
“It’s only when Kim Jong Un himself boxes himself into a corner, and North Korea’s masses are made aware of it, that we have to worry. Only the leader’s words matter, as North Korea’s a dynastic personality cult through which all power and legitimacy stems.”
King said any Korean conflict (however unlikely) could drag in valued U.S. allies such as Australia who stood alongside Washington in the first Korean War.
King said that while Russia and China have been calling for an easing in tensions he doubted Pyongyang would listen to anyone.
“North Korea’s ultranationalist xenophobic ideology means it all rejects any and all foreign influence,” he said.
North fires off
The latest war of words escalated after Trump tweeted that North Korea might not be around for much longer.
It wasn’t long before North Korea’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho responded. “Trump claimed our leadership would not be around much longer,” he said.
“He declared a war on our country. All the member states and the whole world should clearly remember it was the United States that first declared war on our country.”
“Since the United States declared war on our country, we will have every right to take countermeasures including the right to shoot down U.S. strategic bombers even when they are not yet inside the airspace border of our country. The question of who won’t be around much longer will be answered then.”
Administration officials stressed that Washington hadn’t changed its policy and the U.S. isn’t seeking regime change in Pyongyang.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the U.S. has not declared war on North Korea.
“Frankly the suggestion of that is absurd. It’s never appropriate for a country to shoot down another country’s aircraft when it’s over international waters,” she said.
“Our goal is still the same. We continue to seek the peaceful denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.”
It wouldn’t be the first time North Korea has equated past U.S. slights as declarations of war — a state that still formally exists between them because the 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice and not a formal peace treaty.
In 2013, the hermit kingdom declared its relations with South Korea, a close U.S. ally, in a “state of war” after US and international condemnation of a nuclear test explosion.
Three years later, North Korea said U.S. sanctions on leader Kim and other top officials were tantamount to a war declaration.
This News Credit Goes To >> Source link