US Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, held extensive talks with the South Korean military and political leaders in Seoul on Monday. He is expected to arrive in Beijing for a visit Monday night. Given this sensitive timing, the media is speculating if he will make clear the US' military options against North Korea.
The war of words between Washington and Pyongyang has been escalating. The US said it would not give up diplomatic efforts, but it also signaled military strikes against North Korea.
Most analysts believe neither the US nor North Korea would like to see a military showdown, but more and more people worry that miscalculation by the two may lead the situation to spiral out of control. South Korea should be the last one that wants war on the Korean Peninsula as it is bound to suffer if war breaks out.
Seoul should make due contributions to stability in the peninsula, but it is not dedicated to doing so. South Korean President Moon Jae-in declared that there must be no war on the Korean Peninsula, which simply sounds like an empty slogan.
From August 21 to 31, the US and South Korea will hold another joint military exercise called Ulchi-Freedom Guardian. The drill will definitely provoke Pyongyang more, and Pyongyang is expected to make a more radical response. If South Korea really wants no war on the Korean Peninsula, it should try to stop this military exercise. But the South Koreans can hardly get rid of US control, both in mind and deed.
There are contradicting conflicts in the Korean Peninsula. Now that North Korea's missiles can reach as far as US soil, Washington has become more anxious than ever before. This proves that the North Korean nuclear crisis first reflects the contradiction between the US and North Korea. The biggest danger that could happen on the peninsula is a military clash between the two.
Seoul should play the role of a buffer between the US and North Korea to prevent a head-on confrontation between the two. It is an ally of the US. It will have immediate effect if Seoul refuses to cooperate with Washington in launching military action against Pyongyang.
China has friendly relations with North Korea, but it has no deciding leverage. It is more difficult for China to influence North Korea than for South Korea to influence the US.
Once the situation on the Korean Peninsula worsens, South Korea will feel the impact sooner than China. While South Korea isn't helping extricate itself from this mess, it expects China to help it by imposing pressure on North Korea. It even cooperates with the US to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system on its soil to jeopardize China's interests.
The South Koreans should have thought about what their real interests are. Now the destiny of South Korea is under the control of the US and North Korea. It is at the center of the political storm on the peninsula, while its role has been marginalized. The South Koreans should realize how absurd it is.