[Editorial] North Korea should abandon its “enveloping strike” plan for Guam to avoid disaster

Posted on : 2017-08-11 15:58 KST Modified on : 2017-08-11 15:58 KST
The tension between the US and North Korea began with incendiary language, and their behavior is escalating with no signs of ending
A mass rally was held at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang on Aug. 9 in support of a statement the North Korean government published in response to Resolution No. 2371
A mass rally was held at Kim Il-sung Square in Pyongyang on Aug. 9 in support of a statement the North Korean government published in response to Resolution No. 2371

Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Aug. 10 that the North Korean military is considering a plan for launching an “enveloping strike” on Guam by simultaneously firing four Hwasung-12 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBM). The day before, North Korea ratcheted up the threat even further as Kim Rak-gyom, commander of the Korean People’s Army Strategic Forces, specified the timing of the strike (mid-August), the flight path of the missiles and the point of impact (in the ocean 30 to 40 km from Guam) in a statement by the spokesperson of the Strategic Forces.

Many observers still think it is unlikely that North Korea will actually fire missiles at Guam. Even so, North Korea’s behavior is incredibly dangerous. South Korea and the US do not want a military clash, and neither does North Korea. But since North Korea has intensified the crisis to the point just before a military clash in order to raise tensions on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia to the highest possible point, in the event that it actually did fire a missile at the waters around Guam, there is no telling what might ensue. There is no guarantee that this will not lead to a situation that no one wants. North Korea should not rashly think that it can get away with this kind of behavior.

While the current situation was triggered by US President Donald Trump’s remarks about “fire and fury,” the original impetus was provided by North Korea. Its continuing missile tests and its threats to launch a nuclear strike on the US homeland have elevated tensions. Pyongyang’s plan appears to be first pressuring the US and then enlisting the intervention of China and other neighboring countries so that it can break free from the sanctions on it and seize the advantage in negotiations over its nuclear program. But events may not turn out as Pyongyang plans. Other countries have fallen for North Korea’s distinctive tactic of brinkmanship so often now that they can all see through the North’s schemes.

On the afternoon of Aug. 10, the Blue House held a meeting of the standing committee of the National Security Council to discuss countermeasures. The most basic step is to keep the military in complete readiness for any contingencies. But that alone is not enough to resolve this crisis. In the past, a crisis has sometimes led immediately and abruptly to dialogue. No matter what happens, the South Korean government must once again assert the principle of a peaceful solution, and it should make every effort to bring all the related countries, including the US and North Korea, to the table for talks.

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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