Monday 18 June 2018

World warned to prepare for 'real prospect' of N Korea war

Tensions in Korea are high after Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump traded insults. Photo: AP/KCNA via KNS
Tensions in Korea are high after Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump traded insults. Photo: AP/KCNA via KNS

Christine Kim

Tensions between the US and North Korea are so high that war is "a real possibility" for which the world must prepare, a UK defence think tank has warned.

Such a conflict would result in "hundreds of thousands" of casualties, severely disrupt the global economy, and have profound implications for the political and diplomatic landscape of East Asia, the report for the Royal United Services Institute says.

"This report is not saying that war is likely. But the probability of war is an uncomfortably real prospect," said Prof Malcolm Chalmers, the report's author.

The chilling assessment comes as South Korea prepares itself for more provocative acts by North Korea next month, to coincide with the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean Communist Party and China's all-important Communist Party Congress.

During a meeting with President Moon Jae-in yesterday, national security adviser Chung Eui-yong said he expected Pyongyang to act around October 10 and 18.

The South Korean security adviser's report also pointed to the risk that a military conflict could be sparked by "accidental incidents", said Park Wan-ju, a lawmaker and head spokesman of the ruling Democratic Party.

"The president said the United States speaks of military and diplomatic options, but South Korea can't go through war again," said Mr Park.

Tension on the Korean peninsula has risen in recent weeks as North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump exchanged war-like threats and insults over the North's nuclear and missile development programme.

The North has accused Mr Trump of declaring war after he warned Mr Kim's regime would not last if he persisted in threatening the US and its allies, having earlier warned North Korea would be totally destroyed in such an event.

Asked if China had a plan to respond to an emergency in North Korea, such as securing nuclear and missile sites, Chinese defence ministry spokesman Wu Qian said, "Military means cannot become an option," and urged talks to resolve the issue.

"The Chinese military will make all necessary preparations to protect the country's sovereignty and security and regional peace and stability," he said, without elaborating.

China has vowed to uphold UN sanctions against North Korea, besides seeking to get talks with Pyongyang restarted.

Yesterday, China's commerce ministry said North Korean firms or joint ventures in China would be shut within 120 days of the latest United Nations Security Council sanctions, passed on September 12.

Overseas Chinese joint ventures with North Korean entities or individuals will also be closed, the ministry said in a statement on its website, without providing a timeframe.

The ministry had issued similar rules after a previous set of UN sanctions in August.

The United States and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea because the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce and not a peace treaty.

Mr Park said Mr Moon told the meeting that Washington and Seoul agreed that pressure needed to be applied to North Korea.

Irish Independent

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