Saturday, November 27, 2010

Avoiding a nuclear war

"How I wish Panmunjom DMZ be torn apart, just like how the Berlin Wall crumbles..." Kim Young-sam told us on Oct 22, 1996. He was South Korean President then. Together with Roy Trinidad (The Manila Chronicles), Zeenat (editor, Hindustan Times) and 12 senior Asian journalists, the 10-minutes audience was part of our Fellowship stint with the South Korean Press Institute.

We were taken straight to Panmunjom DMZ (Demarcation Military Zone) after that. Dr Hung, an associate editor from Hanoi whispered to me, "No way, bro. Not easy to deal with the North."

The whole world was concerned about an escalation after North Korea turned Yeonpyeong Island into an inferno on Tuesday. Many parents and girlfriends of conscripted soldiers are extremely worried after the latest incident. Seoul cannot proudly declare that South Korean forces are eager to risk their lives to fight against the North.

So what can they do to resolve the dilemma? They cannot continue to allow North Korean provocations, but they also cannot start a war.

In early 1951, when Winston Churchill was the leader of the British opposition, he told his fellow members of Parliament, “It is lucky for me that the Korean War broke out now. We have no choice but to fight, but if I were still the prime minister, I would have been called a war maniac. I would have been the one to send young Brits to the battlefield. The omniscient God did a favor for me.” Even the 'heroic leader' did not find it pleasant to make the decision to go to war.

No citizen in the world welcomes war. That’s why peace has always been an ace in the pocket in American presidential elections. The candidates knew too well that they would not be able to keep their election promises, but they pitched antiwar slogans nonetheless.

President Woodrow Wilson’s successful re-election campaign in 1916 had the slogan, “He kept us out of war.” Twenty-four years later, Franklin D. Roosevelt was re-elected with the same campaign promise. Of course, the US ended up in both WWI and WWII.

It is only natural that former US President George W. Bush is one of the least-loved presidents after starting wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The two wars are criticized for lacking justification. The United States relies on an all-volunteer military, but only 2 per cent of congressional representatives’ children are enlisted.

During the Vietnam War, half of the graduates of Princeton University served in the military. In 2006, only nine Princeton graduates participated in wars. If the privileged class shared the sacrifices of war with the poor, America might not have started its wars, argued American philosopher and Harvard University professor Michael J. Sandel.

Korea requires its citizens to serve in the military, but its far from a fair system. The president, the prime minister and members of the cabinet did not fulfill their military duty.

While some analysts saw the latest incident as a North provocation, it raised concern that should the South returns fire, a new Korea War would flare again and this time, the possibility of dragging the whole world into a nuclear war cannot be discounted.

No one wants the tensions between North and South Korea to escalate into full-scale combat. But neither can North Korea be allowed to attack its neighbor at will.

Convincing the North of that demands a firm response to its brazen and apparently unprovoked attack this week on a South Korean border island that triggered an exchange of fire and left two South Korean marines dead.

President Barack Obama has promised a "unified response," meaning he will work with US allies to on an appropriate answer to North Korea's aggression. That's appropriate. But it can't be a timid response. North Korea is becoming increasingly aggressive, and must be shown that its current path will lead to its own destruction. Much depends on how China reacts.

China is North Korea's sponsor, and has the most influence over the erratic regime. All China has said publicly is that the United States, Japan and South Korea should agree to return to the Six Party talks, the bargaining pact aimed at curbing North Korea's bad behavior.

Rewarding North Korea's military attack with an agreement to resume diplomatic negotiations would be a mistake. North Korea must be weaned of the idea that whenever it wants concessions from the West, all it has to do is rattle its sabers.


al-Deen amin said...

The big powers use proxies to fight wars and fight them on foreign lands. A direct confrontation between giants will be catastrophic because neither will submit and resorting to nuclear weapons is more likely.

In the shoes of the N Koreans, for years they have been harassed militarily, economically and politically by the west via S Korean, and their allies.

What appropriate time to vent their anger now - the west is preoccupied with Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan, Afghanistan, Somalia, national bankruptcies and the currency war.

And N Korean is still at fault!

jung-oo said...

the north did that deliberately and also as a warning to the US that it too has the military might compatible to that of the US-south korea pact.

since the end of the korean war, the US is actually a threat to the peninsula. its military existence in the region has also irked china as the main power there.

the US should stop this and bring home its soldiers and close its bases in south korea and japan.

while the US is the main broker for the unification of korea, the presence of its military bases is also being conceived by pyongyang as a plot against it.

old radar said...


u must be kidding. we are being exposed to the danger mostly everyday.

do u know how many times a month the US nuclear submarines ply the straits of malacca, and we keeping numb about it?

Anonymous said...

the north has provoked and the south has defended.

so, what is the best solution to the conflict?

let them go to war... and winner takes it all!

that's what they want actually

din boroi said...

terlalu banyak jalan diplomatik menemui jalan buntu. tidak ada pihak yang seharusnya disokong dalam hal ini, kecuali sokongan terhadap usaha menyatukan semenanjung korea. mereka adalah orang korea... bairlah mereka yang tentukan dengan sokongan bangsa2 bersatu

grounded said...

nuclear war? not impossible. the americans would like it so much...

Anonymous said...

the US is the big culprit in the region. its military exercise with south korea and japan should be put to a halt until international efforts towards a korean unity talks resume!

unipolar said...

i think pyongyang will use its nuke arms anytime if it perceives the US-south joint military exercise as a threat.

the united nations, with south korea ban kim moon as its sec-gen looks like taking side in this matter.

maybe friendly nations like malaysia, singapore, indonesia, india and new zealand can work out a plan for the peace plan

ex-pelajar di korea said...

SU agung pbb ialah rakyat korea selatan.

macam mana pun dia akan menyebelahi negara dia dalam membuat apa2 keputusan atau saranan.

inilah masalah pbb sekarang

masih di BH said...

keamanan memang hasrat semua bangsa. cuma ada yang degil dan keras kepala, lebih2 lagi bila ada kuasa besar yang melaga2kan mereka

old radar said...

this is a test of military might.

lets see whether the us can attend to the north korean military advancement.

the us always think they are the best...