Why ‘Destroying North Korea Beyond Recovery’ Will Not Work

After the UN Security Council agreed on Monday to ratchet up sanctions against North Korea for its sixth nuclear test, Kim Jong Un has to prove to his nation that he will continue his programme anyway, former Russian ambassador to South Korea Gleb Ivashentsov told valdaiclub.com.

The Security Council has not yet employed all available means to exert pressure on Pyongyang and Kim’s position is purely defensive, Ivashentsov said. “He is not saying that he will attack someone, he is saying that those who dare attack North Korea will face resolute retaliation,” the former ambassador said. “His behaviour is absolutely reactive: if he is attacked, he will respond in kind.”

Although South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Friday that his country “will destroy the North beyond recovery”, this is impossible, the Valdai Club expert believes. “They will not destroy anything, because North Koreans have been preparing for a possible clash for decades. They have hidden everything in the mountains, caves, tunnels and so on, and Americans will not be able to destroy their nuclear munitions and missiles with pre-emptive strikes,” the expert said.

The problem is that across the border from South Korean capital Seoul with a population of 25 million is North Korea’s most powerful group of long-range artillery, which is capable of completely destroying the city. In addition, South Korea is home to 25 nuclear reactors and any strikes, even non-nuclear, would annihilate the country. Retaliation strikes against Japan, US troops and, for instance, Guam can be expected, too.

“Therefore, there can be no military solution, only a political one,” Ivashentsov stressed.

North Korea: Is "War by Error" Possible? Konstantin Asmolov
Quite recently, the present writer offered theoretical remarks on the likelihood of a military conflict on the Korean Peninsula, noting that the probability of this has increased considerably this year. But the interest aroused by this subject compels him to discuss in greater detail what will happen if the conflict takes place after all, how it may develop and what possible consequences it could have for the region.

According to him, there are several tracks of political settlement in the Korean peninsula. The first of them is UN-sponsored talks between the two Koreas. “The missile and nuclear programmes were caused by the military confrontation between the North and the South,” the expert believes. “If they sign a peace treaty, there will be no need to ensure North Korea’s security [by all means]. Therefore, negotiations are the way forward.”

The second track is the Russia-China road map, which, according to the expert, can be a good start for political settlement. “It is clear what should be the starting point: Pyongyang must suspend its missile and nuclear programmes and, as a response, the United States and South Korea must suspend their joint military exercises. After that, the sides could begin to discuss the other issues: confidence-building and so on. The crucial thing now is to stop escalation of tensions,” Ivashentsov concluded.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.