Although the Korean War ended over half a century ago, North Korea and South Korea are still technically in a conflict. When North Korea moved into South Korea with the help of the Chinese and the Soviets in 1950, the ensuing fighting only ended with the Korean Armistice in July 1953, but that only ensured a ceasefire, rather than an agreement for peace.
Throughout the years since the end of the Korean War, North Korea has repeatedly expressed a desire to destroy South Korea, with both countries believing that their government is the true government of Korea, and neither willing to budge. As United States forces begin military exercises in the Western Pacific, North Korea has contacted many of the other surrounding nations in South East Asia, and warned them that a “nuclear holocaust” may be in the offing.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) allows for intergovernmental relationships between many nations in the Asia-Pacific, including the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. North Korea is not part of the 10 countries that make up ASEAN, but in a letter dated March 23, North Korean foreign minister Ri Yong-Ho expressed his worry that the safety of the entire South-East region is at stake.
I express my expectations that ASEAN which attaches great importance to the regional peace and stability will make an issue of the US-South Korean joint military exercises at ASEAN conferences from the fair position and play an active role in safeguarding the peace and safety of Korean Peninsula.”
Ri Yong-Ho also referred to the United States in his letter to some of the other nations in South East Asia. The USS Carl Vinson, a nuclear-capable aircraft carrier, has been deployed to the Western Pacific, and alongside Japan, is in the middle of military exercises. With the United States also allied with South Korea, Ri Yong-Ho says that the frequent military exercises in South Korea meant that North Korea was left with no choice but to prepare for conflict.
It is a fact clear to everyone that when they deploy the means of nuclear strike that can drive the Korean Peninsula into a nuclear holocaust in just seconds – the nature of such exercises can in no way be defensive.
Addressed to ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh, it remains to be seen how ASEAN will respond to the plea, and the gathered South Eastern nations are reportedly at an impasse over whether or not to help North Korea. The state enjoys a healthy relationship with the likes of Cambodia and Laos, but after Kim Jong-Nam, half-brother of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un, was assassinated in Malaysia, a diplomatic row ensued between Pyongyang and Kuala Lumpur. With the two suspects in that murder hailing from Vietnam and Indonesia, an ASEAN summit is underway to decide what to do with North Korea, and the talks are set to end on Saturday.
Tensions in the region are reaching boiling point, and an attempt by the United States to arm South Korea with nuclear defence technology has angered China, who are one of North Korea’s most powerful allies. It remains to be seen how the surrounding countries in the Asia-Pacific treat this plea by North Korea, and whether it is still possible for international conflict to be avoided.