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Unlikelihood of North Korea Initiating an Attack on South Korea

North Continues to Claim Underwater Nuclear Weapon Testing

Several Cruise Missiles Launched

지난 2010 연평도 포격사건 당시 피해를 받은 건물들이 안보교육관으로 보존되고 있다(자료사진). ⓒ데일리안 홍금표 기자
Buildings damaged during the Yeonpyeong Island shelling incident are preserved as security education centers ⓒDailyan

As North Korea, which has openly declared the occupation of South Korea, announced that it will introduce territorial provisions into its constitution claiming it cannot recognize the Northern Limit Line (NLL), voices expressing concern about direct military provocation are growing.

As Chairman Kim Jong-un mentioned that ‘any intrusion into our territory, airspace, and territorial waters, even by 0.001mm, will be considered a war provocation,’ it is speculated that tension may rise near the West Sea NLL, which has served as the ‘effective border’ between the North and South.

In a situation where the possibility of an “unpredictable provocation” like the Cheonan ship sinking is raised, North Korea seems to have continued various military actions from the beginning of the year.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff announced on the 24th, “Our military detected several cruise missiles launched into the West Sea by the North around 7 o’clock today,” and “The U.S. and South Korean intelligence authorities are conducting a detailed analysis of the specifications and other details.”

The Joint Chiefs of Staff emphasized, “Our military is strengthening surveillance and alertness, closely cooperating with the U.S. side, and monitoring additional signs and activities from North Korea.”

North Korea, which recently announced that they conducted an ‘important test of the underwater nuclear weapon system’ in the East Sea, is raising tensions by also provoking cruise missile launches in the West Sea.

김정은 북한 국무위원장 ⓒ조선중앙통신 Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea ⓒKorean Central News Agency

Although concerns about further provocations are growing, analysis shows that it will be difficult for North Korea to commit ‘direct provocations.’ It is speculated that North Korea, which first mentioned ‘economy’ as its main goal this year, will try to avoid unnecessary military conflicts.

Above all, our military is repeatedly emphasizing ‘overwhelming response,’ and due to the increasing influence of the U.S.’s extended deterrence and security cooperation between South Korea, the U.S., and Japan, it is evaluated that North Korea has no choice but to hesitate making ‘reckless choices’.

Professor Park Won-gon of the North Korean Studies Department at Ewha Womans University said at a recent debate hosted by the Sejong Institute, “We were hit in 2010,” but “(At present) It’s not easy for North Korea to make local provocations.”

Professor Park emphasized, “During peacetime, the operational control is in the hands of the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, but South Korea and the U.S. have cooperated to create a ‘South Korea-U.S. joint plan to counter local provocations.’ We have been preparing for this for over 10 years.”

Although there are concerns that North Korea could carry out ‘gray zone provocations’ that are difficult to pinpoint the origin of, like the Cheonan ship sinking, Professor Park explained, “The Joint Chiefs of Staff have also created scenarios like that and are conducting training to prepare for it.”

Professor Park, while stating that preparation for the possibility of North Korea’s direct provocation is necessary, evaluated, “North Korea, which is inferior in conventional power, knows too well that if they make a mistake, they could actually be defeated. (So) they keep throwing ‘verbal bombs’.”

The analysis shows that it is highly likely that North Korea will avoid provocations that ‘cross the line’, as confirmed from their behavior after the abolition of the 9·19 South-North Military Agreement.

Despite North Korea declaring the abolition of the agreement immediately after the Yoon Seok-yeol government took measures to suspend the effect of Article 1, Paragraph 3 (No-Fly Zone) of the military agreement in response to North Korea’s military reconnaissance satellite provocation last November, it is explained that they are refraining from direct provocations against the South.

As North Korea’s plan to sow discord between South Korea and the U.S. through the advancement of nuclear missiles has resulted in ‘counter-effects’ such as the strengthening of the South Korea-U.S. alliance and the enhancement of security cooperation between South Korea, the U.S., and Japan, it is evaluated that North Korea is ‘feeling the burden.’

Professor Park said, “North Korea has poured out everything to advance their nuclear capabilities, but in fact, it has been caught in the extended deterrence at the level of South Korea, the U.S., and Japan.”

In particular, Professor Park emphasized that Chairman Kim’s mentions of the ‘warning message’ from South Korea and the U.S. in succession at the end-of-year plenum last year and at the Supreme People’s Assembly in mid-January shows that “it means that it is a big burden for them (North Korea).”

In fact, South Korea and the U.S. are repeatedly sending out a message of ‘the end of the Kim Jong-un regime in case of nuclear use’ at every major occasion.

Defense Minister Shin Won-sik visited the Air Force 17th Fighter Wing, where the 5th generation stealth fighter F-35 is deployed, on this day and said, “If the Kim Jong-un regime makes the worst choice ever to start a war, you must become the vanguard that declares the end of the regime by removing the enemy leadership in the shortest time possible as ‘the invisible power that protects the Republic of Korea.'”

By. Sharon Lee

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