The Korea Herald


South Korea to sharpen message to NK: envoy

Seoul, Washington reportedly share view that Pyongyang is not preparing for full-scale war

By Ji Da-gyum

Published : Jan. 31, 2024 - 15:16

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South Korean Ambassador to the United States Cho Hyun-dong speaks during a press briefing in Washington on Tuesday. (Yonhap) South Korean Ambassador to the United States Cho Hyun-dong speaks during a press briefing in Washington on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

South Korea aims to convey a more specific message to the North Korean leadership this year, emphasizing that provocations will only strengthen the South's alignment with the United States and Japan, the country's Ambassador to the United States Cho Hyun-dong said Tuesday.

"North Korea has been persistently conducting unprecedented threats and provocations against us," he said.

"We will never be swayed or (give in) to North Korea's provocations and threats. Instead, we will ensure that North Korea more clearly recognizes that such actions only lead to fortifying the readiness posture of South Korea and the US, along with fostering security cooperation among South Korea, the US and Japan."

Cho said that Seoul will "continue efforts to establish strategic environments (so that) North Korea can return to the dialogue for denuclearization through a holistic approach of deterrence, dissuasion, dialogue and diplomacy."

Seoul and Washington have worked to strengthen the viability of US extended deterrence, utilizing channels such as the Nuclear Consultative Group. Cho mentioned that both countries aim to finalize a comprehensive plan on how to contain and respond to Pyongyang's nuclear threats by this summer.

"North Korea has made attempts, including its military cooperation with Russia, to steer shifts in international affairs in their favor," Cho said. "But South Korea and the US are committed to responding sternly to such efforts while closely communicating and coordinating with numerous friendly countries in the international community."

Local media reports of the briefing said Seoul and Washington share the assessment that there are no distinct indications to suggest North Korea is preparing for all-out war. South Korea and the US do not see the probability of war breaking out as high given North Korea's significant weapons supplies to Russia.

But recent actions from North Korea suggest that the allies cannot rule out local provocations such as North Korea's previous torpedo attack on the South Korean Navy ship Cheonan and shelling bombardment toward the western border island of Yeonpyeong, along with potential new forms of provocations.

Seoul and Washington reportedly maintain a firm military readiness posture for all scenarios, therefore.

Tensions simmer on the Korean Peninsula as North Korea has conducted a continuous spate of provocations since the beginning of this year.

North Korea fired around 350 shells toward the disputed inter-Korean western maritime border for three consecutive days from Jan. 5 to 7. Additionally, North Korea test-fired a purported solid-fuel hypersonic missile with an intermediate range for the first time in mid-January. Pyongyang also launched a salvo of what it claimed to be nuclear-capable cruise missiles three times within a week, starting Jan. 24.

Antagonistic rhetoric from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un targeting South Korea has further amplified tensions. Kim has publicly and repeatedly characterized inter-Korean relations as "belligerent" since the last year-end party plenum.

In a parliamentary policy speech in January, Kim emphasized the need to specify in the country's constitution the issue of "completely occupying, subjugating, and reclaiming" South Korea, proposing its incorporation as part of North Korean territory in the event of a peninsula war.

Robert Carlin, a former CIA analyst, and Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist with multiple visits to North Korea, said in January in their article in 38 North, that "Kim Jong-un has made a strategic decision to go to war," drawing parallels to his grandfather Kim Il-sung's actions in 1950.