Kim Jong-un rips up plan to reunify Korea, raising fears of all-out war

“The situation on the Korean Peninsula is more dangerous than it has been at any time since early June 1950,” wrote Robert L Carlin, a former CIA analyst, and Siegfried S Hecker, a nuclear scientist who has frequently visited the North, on the respected 38 North website.


They referred to the timing of the start of the Korean War that devastated and split the Peninsula.

“We believe that, like his grandfather in 1950, Kim Jong-un has made a strategic decision to go to war. We do not know when or how Kim plans to pull the trigger, but the danger is already far beyond the routine warnings in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo about Pyongyang’s ‘provocations’,” they said.

Most analysts disagree with their doomsday prediction, arguing that Kim would not risk the obliteration of his regime through all-out war. But many concede that in a world of rapidly changing battle lines and geopolitical alliances, his renewed threats are a cause for alarm.

Experts such as Chun In-bum, a retired general who once commanded South Korea’s special forces, believe Kim could engage in more limited military aggression now that he has taken the “significant” step to reject the historic common bond between North and South.


“This is not just rhetoric,” he said. “It is increasing tensions, and when you have people who are trigger happy, all tensed up, you are going to have a big problem.”

Kim had lost patience with South Korea and the United States, and while “he doesn’t have the capability to start a major war,” a possible flashpoint could be his claims around the Northern Limit Line (NLL), the disputed maritime boundary between North and South, said Gen Chun. “He has implied he is not going to respect that.”

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said Kim’s policy shift appeared to be an attempt to justify his expensive pursuit of nuclear missiles and failure to win sanctions relief, while aligning himself closer to Russia and China.

“North Korea is now exploiting ‘Cold War 2.0’ geopolitics to become more interdependent with, rather than dependent on, Russia and China. Through illicit trade in violation of UN sanctions, Pyongyang seeks to revitalise its economy and act as a more significant military power,” he said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.Credit: KCNA

The bellicose moves have combined to dash hopes for reconciliation and nuclear disarmament, with Kim’s motivation likely to be blaming South Korea for his costly policies to maintain power, Professor Easley added.

“While the Kim regime may be playing to its domestic political audience, these moves risk unintended escalation and inadvertent conflict on the Korean Peninsula,” he said.

Telegram, London

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