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Published On: Thu, Aug 17th, 2017

There will be no war on the Korean peninsula: Moon Jae-In

nsnbc : South Korean President Moon Jae-In affirmed on August 17 there will be no war on the Korean peninsula. Moon stressed that Seoul effectively had a to veto over the United States’ military action in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. Moon’s assertiveness, however, doesn’t change the fact that Washington still has the wartime command over South Korea’s armed forces.

Moon Jae-In_South Korea_Press conference_Aug 2017Tensions have soared on the Korean peninsula in recent months, with Pyongyang carrying out what it claimed to be its first successful tests of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), maybe bringing parts of US territory such as Guam or parts of Alaska within range.

Last week the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) boasted that it could send a salvo of rockets towards the U.S. territory of Guam, although Pyongyang appears to have backed off for now. In response, U.S. President Donald Trump wasn’t less bellicose when he promised “fire and fury” and boasted that Washington’s weapons were “locked and loaded.”

The intense rhetoric on both sides has raised fears of a miscalculation leading to catastrophic consequences — Pyongyang has vast artillery forces deployed within range of Seoul, where millions of people live. However, President Moon Jae-In of the Republic of Korea (ROK) promised during a press conference on the occasion of his 100th day in office:

“I will prevent war at all cost. … I want all South Koreans to believe with confidence that there will be no war.”

The U.S. has been South Korea’s “security guarantor” since the end of the Korean War in 1953, which left the peninsula divided and technically still in a state of conflict with no peace treaty signed. Washington has 28,500 troops stationed in the country to protect it from the North.

However, Moon claimed Seoul effectively had a veto on military action by the U.S. Washington and Trump had agreed that “no matter what option they take about North Korea, all decisions will be made after consulting with and getting agreement with the Republic of Korea,” Moon said.

That said, even with such an agreement that hasn’t been put down on paper and signed, it is a matter of fact that Washington could take full command over South Korea’s armed forces at any time. Washington has still the sovereign wartime command over South Korea’s armed forces. Absent a peace treaty between the DPRK and the ROK the “sovereign South Korean peacetime command” over its armed forces is hypothetical and cosmetic at best.

Trump’s rhetoric has raised alarm among observers. Moon, who visited Washington at the end of June, declined to criticize his choice of words but his statement now may be aimed to bring calm and convey at least an illusion of sovereignty.  The U.S. leader was just “trying to pressure North Korea by showing a firm resolution”, he said.

Pyongyang says it needs nuclear weapons to defend itself from possible invasion by its “imperialist enemy” the U.S. and has long sought to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S. mainland. In the past Moon, a left-leaning former human rights lawyer, has urged engagement with Pyongyang to bring it to the negotiating table, in addition to sanctions. But since coming to power his gestures have been rebuffed by Pyongyang, and he played down the urgency of dialogue. North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un said August 15 he would “watch a little more” before making a decision on the Guam missile launch, a declaration Trump lauded as “very wise”.

Meanwhile, U.S. General Joe Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, said on August 17 that peace with North Korea is a “possibility,” adding that the U.S. has “credible, viable military options” for dealing with the issue. Dunford also told reporters during his visit to Beijing that the U.S. has no plans to “dial back” military exercises with South Korea, which have angered both China and North Korea.  “What’s unimaginable to me is not a military option,” Dunford said. “I do believe right now that there’s a long way to go, but we are on a path where there is a possibility — and I hope a probability that we can resolve this peacefully,” he added.

CH/L – nsnbc 17.08.2017

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