Korean peninsula on the verge of crisis


North Korea has launched major winter military exercises. This is not typical for the country, in contrast to its southern neighbor whose war games almost never end.


The central event of the exercises will be large-scale winter air force maneuvers in which all North Korean Air Force units will be involved. They are reported to have already been sent to Sunan, where the event will be held.

Sunan Airport is North Korea’s main international airport and a major transportation hub. It is located 24 km north of the center of Pyongyang. Carrying out war games there complicates the work of civilian flights. On the other hand, the enormity of the exercises and their involvement of a large swathe of society can be emphasized.

The South Korean response

The day before the beginning of the exercises in the DPRK, South Korea also began regular joint war games with the United States which are no less ambitious. They involve 450 American soldiers, several fighters, carrier-based aircraft, and missile defense systems. All of these factors make it obvious that serious provocations can be expected from Seoul (or the US).

At the same time, the South Korean military command does not bother to hide the explicitly anti-North Korean orientation of these exercises.

Who benefits?

Moreover, all of these activities are happening in a very tense situation. Both countries have their own problems. If North Korea was the main issue of the UN resolution adopted yesterday, which is the most rigid resolution of all time and indeed imposes severe sanctions on Pyongyang, then Seoul is completely destabilized and weakened internally.

In such a tense situation, any provocation could lead to the outbreak of real hostilities. Seoul, however, will be in a better position. First of all, Park Geun-hye, taking advantage of the state of emergency, could remain in power. Secondly, because of the sanctions imposed, North Korea cannot count on help from any country.

Who will win?

However, with regards to internal resources, North Korean society supports its government’s actions more than South Korea can count on from its own people.

The Minister of Defense of South Korea, Han Min-Koo, is a supporter of Park Geun-hye, whose approval rating has fallen to a record low of 4%. In South Korea, in Seoul, as well as in other regions, including the strategically important cities of Sangju and Gimcheon where there are military installations, mass protests are constantly ongoing against both civilian and military authorities. Many residents are dissatisfied not only with Washington’s role in Seoul's politics, but also the waste of the budget on constant war games.