By N. A. WARDAH
What kind of world are we living in? Nuclear threat is everywhere. Headlines come up way too often about the frustrating state of relations between the United States and North Korea. Kim Jong Un is shooting. Donald trump is barking. What is really happening? Why so serious? Oepsoyoe?
Imagine two dominant predators living in a jungle. One has long been known as the ‘lion king’. The other is a strong tiger living with it. It is in fact as strong as the king and little did we know it is well equipped with hidden claws much sharper than those belonging to the ‘king of the jungle.’ Provoked by the king and hiding in preparation for its long lost revenge, it now wants to show its claws and fight.
That is how we can describe the bitter ‘relationship’ between the two 10 337 kilometres-apart countries.
“Why is it so bitter?” might be the first question that pops up in your mind.
Like it or not, let’s look back on history, where the answer to almost every question in the world lies.
To put it simply, it could be traced back to three major wars: World War II (1939-1945), the Cold War (1947-1991) and the Korean War (1950-1953). All are related to one another.
After World War II, the Japanese had to give up its colonies including Korea to the other powers, mainly the US and the Soviet. Divided by the border line known as the ‘38th parallel’, the Korean peninsula is divided into North and South Korea. The northern part was taken by the Soviet while the southern part was taken by the US. This 38th parallel border was meant to be temporary. However, due to the souring of relations between the Soviet and the US, the temporary border turned into something permanent. This was the time when both countries were having a war of influence and proxy instead of bombs and guns – the Cold War.
Dissatisfied with the border, North Korea, backed by the Soviet, marched to South Korea and invaded them in August 1950. The US saw it as a means for the communist groups to dominate the world with communism expansionism. As a result, the US took up arms and the Korean War erupted.
The war, though it lasted for a comparatively short period of three years, was merciless in its effects.
The Korean War left a deep scar to North Korea. To the communist country, US was unforgivable. The American troops controlled the aerial spot of the war, with long bombardments to the North Korean peninsula, leaving it almost swept clean off the map. The MiGs* by the Soviet, China and North Korea were limited to fight with. The North Koreans were left living with fear of more bombardments, B-29, and much worse, of atomic bombs.
After the war, North Korea, with the help of its socialist neighbours, recovered. Little by little, it became an industrial country. Slowly it developed its own power of nuclear with regular missiles tests, not wanting the same tragedy perpetrated by the Americans to occur again. This was the story, in a nutshell. What’s more, there was never a peace treaty signed between the US and North Korea; there was only a truce. In other words, there was no full stop to the Korean War, only a comma.
North Korea perceived the US army exercise with South Korea in South Korea’s army base as a threat to them and as early steps to invade North Korea, hence they reacted with more active missiles tests as a sign of power and in the name of defence. However, this is not the first time North Korea has done so. Their missiles tests have been conducted since the 1990s. Last year alone, 14 missiles tests were launched, which is a significant number of tests compared to the previous reign of the two other Kims.
Try to look at things from the perspective of North Korea. We would say our undertakings are in the name of self-defence because we have our own concerns owing to the fact that the US might blow a pre-emptive strike against us since we have been in bad terms with them since the Korean War. North Korea seems to have a reasonable apprehension towards harm. We cannot put the blame fully on the country.
Thinking as the US or China, we would want to deter North Korea from attacking, so heavy sanctions are put in place. For China, sanctions would trigger an influx of refugees across its borders, and would render the region unstable.
So, what now? The key action lies with the king, leader of the jungle. Donald Trump as the current leader of the US needs to act mature.
The major powers have not exhausted all diplomatic means. We have not reached the point of reacting to missiles with missiles…yet. There is still sunlight in the storm.
Firstly, we need a final peace agreement. This sounds very imaginative but it is what the major powers need to work on. As one historian said, “Direct talks is the only method that has ever worked.” It would be a lot to bargain for between both countries, but gaining and losing through a treaty is better than losing lives in a war and gaining nothing.
Secondly, the US needs to convince North Korea that the world can aid the failing North Korean economy to recover. It could be Russia to undertake this task as Russia and the US had similar difficult relations before.
There is still space for diplomacy. At the end of the day, we do not need to answer who wins in a fight between a lion and a tiger. We in fact do not need a fight. We need a win-win solution for the prosperity of the “jungle”.
*MiGs- aircraft used during the fight