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Korean peninsula tensions UPSC NOTE

 What has led to the current aggravation of ties between North and South Korea?

  • Mr. Kim, in his address to the Supreme People’s Assembly on January 15, proclaimed that he is scrapping the decades old North Korean goal of reunifying the South.

  •  Also had rebranded the South as an enemy state

  • He ordered the rewriting of the North Korean constitution to reflect this new shift in the regime’s thinking

  • The offices related to reunification were closed, and a landmark monument in Pyongyang portraying the reunification ideal was brought down. 

  • In addition to these moves, North Korea has also flexed its military muscle by testing multiple types of missile systems during the first month of 2024 itself.

  • One such important test was that of a solid fuelled missile carrying a hypersonic warhead.

  • This is significant because major military powers across the world are on a race for developing.

  • These weapons can theoretically provide countries the capability to evade and even target the missile defence systems of their adversaries.

  • The U.S., Russia, China, India and Iran are working on such hypersonic weapons, and North Korea could now join the club

  • The U.S., South Korea and Japan have conducted joint naval drills in response to the provocations by North Korea, featuring nine warships. 

  • The exercises were meant to enhance their joint effectiveness against North Korea’s missile and underwater threats, as well as its illegal maritime shipment of arms. 

  • North Korea has alleged that these exercises are rehearsals of an offensive intent and not defensive drills. 

  • The nation subsequently tested its “Haeil-5-23” nuclear capable underwater drone in retaliation to these joint naval drills. 

  • Pyongyang also tested its strategic cruise missile “Pulhwasal-3-31”, which could allegedly threaten critical American bases in Japan.

  • The current government in South Korea is a newly elected one led by the conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol. 

  • He has a hawkish view of North Korea unlike his predecessor Moon Jae-in. 

  • The Yoon government’s strategy is to closely coordinate efforts with the U.S. and Japan to deter and counter North Korea’s aggressive moves. 

  • In fact, the three countries in August 2023 met together at Camp David in Washington D.C., in a historic meeting to initiate a new era of trilateral cooperation. 

  • This is a significant step as South Korea and Japan, even though close allies of the U.S., and strong economic partners, have bitter political relations among them due to the historical legacy of imperial Japan’s occupation of the Korean peninsula

  • Hence, there is a growing concern among the international community that the tensions between North and South Korea maybe heading towards conflict.

How is it affecting regional security and major power rivalries? 

  • The tensions in the Korean Peninsula are rising at a time when the world is witnessing the activation of historically rooted conflicts such as Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Palestine, while others like China-Taiwan and India-China are smouldering

  • This is indeed a significant concern as the key external stakeholders of the Korean peninsula are the very same nuclear powers who are locked in a global strategic competition — the U.S., China and Russia. 

  • Since there are alliances and nuclear weapons involved, a major conflict may be prevented from breaking out. 

  • However, as in the case of North Korea’s torpedoing a South Korean warship or its shelling of a South Korean island in 2010.

  • There are chances of violent incidents or skirmishes

  • Nevertheless, North Korea’s deepening ties with China and Russia, and South Korea’s increasingly firm entrenchment in the U.S. alliance system imply significant linkages with ongoing conflicts.

  • North Korea has drifted further into the camp of the Sino-Russian axis, as a result of the choices made by Mr. Kim. Russia has boosted its engagement with North Korea.

  • Especially in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war.

  • Mr. Kim visited Russia in September 2023 and met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

  • During the visit, Mr. Kim was invited to the Vostochny spaceport of Russia.

  • Where he was promised assistance in enhancing North Korea’s space capabilities in return for arms supplies. 

  • This was preceded by Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s visit to Pyongyang in July 2023, and was followed by the visit of Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit in October 2023

How do North Korea’s strategic capabilities stack up?

  • China has always been consistently supportive of North Korea.

  • Being the single largest trading partner of the country. 

  • Even with rising tensions in the Korean peninsula, on January 26.

  • China’s Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong visited Pyongyang and expressed China’s unswerving support to North Korea

  • At a time when the U.S. is preoccupied with conflicts in Europe and West Asia.

  • Mr. Kim could have found the moment opportune to conduct provocative actions for bargaining with North Korea’s adversaries as well as partners. 

  • Russia and China are on the same side when it comes to the Russia-Ukraine as well as the Israel-Hamas conflict. 

  • They have a lot to gain from North Korea creating a distraction for the U.S. by opening a “third front”.

Are ongoing conflicts playing a role in the escalation of tensions between the two Koreas?

  • There has been a notable uptick in provocative moves by North Korea and the subsequent rebuttals by South Korea and its allies

  • North Korea has rescinded its national objective of Korean reunification and has formally categorised South Korea as an adversarial state.

  • The country has also ramped up the frequency and diversity of its missile tests, expanding its strategic capabilities. 

  • These actions were responded to by South Korea through joint military drills with the U.S. and Japan

  • The ongoing developments in the Korean peninsula have raised serious concerns about the deterioration of the international security environment and a deepening of major power rivalry.

  • There was an effort by the Donald Trump administration to discuss peace with North Korea and veer it towards de-nuclearisation

  • During 2018-19, the two leaders met on three occasions to pursue peace talks

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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Korean peninsula tensions UPSC NOTE
Korean peninsula tensions UPSC NOTE
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