With the election of a new President last May, South Korea has found a leader in liberal candidate Moon Jae-in. A former human rights lawyer, Moon has promised to bring change to the country including the country’s relationship with North Korea. With promises of doing everything he can to bring peace to the Korean Peninsula, the elected President has even talked about the possibility of engaging with its neighbor if the opportunity arises. Moon’s optimism and pro-engagement stance regarding North Korea have shown his ideals as a leader. However, his advocacy is in stark contrast with the view of the US which is pushing for further isolation and more international sanctions on the reclusive country.
In spite of Moon’s willingness to hash it out with Kim Jong-un, tensions in the Korean Peninsula are higher than ever as North Korea threatens its neighbor with all-out war. Regional experts are also speculating that North Korea is once again preparing for another nuclear missile test. It is estimated that North Korea has already held around 10 missile tests over the past year. Tensions may be arising between the two countries, but it is important to remember that caught in the middle of it all are South Korean allies the United States and Japan.
With the possibility of all-out war in the region, the US and Japan have made efforts in pacifying this difficult situation. Both countries have made efforts to prevent war, but they have also made it clear where their loyalties lie. In fact, earlier this year, the US unexpectedly started deploying the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) to South Korea. THAAD is a US missile defense system with the purpose of defending South Korea against missile attacks from enemies. It works by intercepting and destroying missiles before hitting their target. This move was a preemptive measure in the event of war although many locals opposed it saying it was too early for such a move. China also condemned the deployment of THAAD, seeing it as a threat to the nation as well. US officials are insisting, however, that THAAD is only meant for defensive and not offensive purposes.
With things getting more serious and complicated in South Korea, locals and tourists alike are sure to be on edge with North Korea’s threats. There are an estimated 230,000 Americans living in South Korea today. This is why the US forces in the country are planning to train their soldiers in evacuating Americans in the regions. A drill is planned to take place in June of this year to evacuate civilians to safety via transport planes. These planes will be taking evacuees to places such as Japan. Last year, two drills were also held to prepare citizens in the event of war.
In recent news, American college student Otto Warmbier, who was arrested and detained in North Korea for 17 months, died shortly after his release. Details of his medical condition are still unknown, but according to North Korean officials, he was in a coma majority of the time he was detained. The mystery of his condition has angered many Americans. Trump administration news reports that they are holding the country responsible for Warmbier’sdeath. They have not yet decided on what actions to take after this incident, but there have been American lawmakers pushing for a travel ban to North Korea.
For sure, no one wants war. It is chaotic, risky, costly, and never-ending. All parties involved in a war will definitely have something to lose. However, with all of these things going on in the region, tensions are sure to escalate even more.