This past week North Korean leader Kim Jong Un turned up the heat on the peninsula with the threat of a nuclear attack against South Korea and the US, while the United Nations Security Council retaliated with more sanctions and Washington made plans to beef up missile security.
Now North Korea’s state-run news is making, what may, or may not be idol threats about shelling Islands south of the northern limit zone. In 2010 North Korea attacked the Island of Yeonpyeong, about 6 miles south of the limit line with artillery that killed 4 people.
The latest threats came as US and South Korea held their annual military drills, which have been held since the 1970s. The military drills began March 11, and will continue for eleven days. Last week the communist North played an ace-in-the-hole by cutting off the Red Cross hotline and claimed they nullified the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War.
A spokesperson for the UN, Martin Nesirky, said the armistice could not be called off and it is still in effect. “The terms of the armistice agreement do not allow either side unilaterally to free themselves from it,” Nesirky said.
On Thursday the UN Security Council approved new sanctions against North Korea, with the blessings of China. However, China has refused to enforce sanctions it agreed to in the past.
According to a US Today story, the new sanctions authorize countries to:
- Inspect any North Korean vessel or airplane, and to deny landing or port rights if the North refuses to allow it.
- Ban exports of expensive jewelry, yachts, luxury automobiles and racing cars to the North.
- Freeze financial transactions or services that could contribute to North Korea’s nuclear or missile programs.
- Bans financial support for trade deals, such as granting export credits, if the assistance could aid the North’s nuclear or missile programs.
While Kim Jong Un refuses to honor the armistice and has threatened to shell islands and start a nuclear war, most doubt he will follow through. The North Korean leader would like to see the 28,500 US troops removed from South Korea and seeks recognition as a nuclear weapons state, however it is unlikely Washington would agree to either of those terms.
Nuclear war would surely be suicidal for the entire peninsula, yet the question remains, does Kim Jong Un realize that?
Brief Korean history
The Koreans are linguistically homogenous people who migrated from the northwestern regions of Asia. The traditional religions of the Korean people are Buddhism and Shamanism. Christianity began rooting itself in the peninsula in the 16th century; however, most religious activities are oppressed today by the State.
After centuries of invasions and occupations by the Mongolians, the Japanese and other larger nations in the region, Korea was annexed by Japan in 1910. After Japan’s surrender in 1945 Korea became a divided nation. The US took over the southern portion of the peninsula while the USSR occupied the North.
The division, meant to be temporary, became permanent in 1948 after the United Nations General Assembly failed in a bid to reunify the country.
In 1950 the North invaded its southern neighbors. It was at that time, the United Nations conducted its first collective action. Sixteen nations sent troops to help the invaded country. The majority of the troops consisted of US and South Korean forces.
An armistice, or cease fire, was signed and hostilities ended on July 27, 1953. The Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers signed the armistice agreement with the US and South Korea.
In 1971 the North and South, with the help of the Red Cross societies, began reunification talks, but the talks slowed and finally broke down when South Korean President Park Chung Hee announced we would seek entry into the UN as a separate nation. The two countries live side-by-side today at quarrelsome neighbors.