US, North Korea called to stop fu­elling con­flict with threats

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A NU­CLEAR war be­tween North Korea and the US is not im­mi­nent, an­a­lysts said, but the in­flam­ma­tory rhetoric on both sides is in­creas­ing the risk. They called on all par­ties to de-es­ca­late.

North Korea’s army said yes­ter­day it was ex­am­in­ing a plan to use bal­lis­tic mis­siles to make an “en­velop­ing fire” around Guam, a US ter­ri­tory that is home to An­der­sen Air Force Base. The state­ment came a day af­ter US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump warned North Korea against mak­ing more threats, say­ing: “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.”

A North Korean at­tack or an Amer­i­can pre-emp­tive strike is un­likely, said John Delury, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at Yon­sei Univer­sity in Seoul. He saw North Korea’s state­ment as a warn­ing to Wash­ing­ton that its mis­siles could reach tar­gets in the re­gion, rather than one of an ac­tual at­tack.

“If North Korea was plan­ning some kind of pre-emp­tive or sur­prise at­tack on Guam, we would not be read­ing about it in North Korean me­dia,” Delury said. “Now that said, you do need to track their threats. And there are cases where they (have) made a spe­cific threat and car­ried it out.”

A US strike against North Korea would need the sup­port of South Korea, he said, be­cause the North would likely re­tal­i­ate against the South and its 600 000 troops.

“It’s not some­thing you can do with­out ro­bust, full sup­port from the South Korean gov­ern­ment peo­ple, and there’s ab­so­lutely no sign that South Korea will sup­port mil­i­tary op­tions with North Korea,” he said.

Chi­nese schol­ars said Bei­jing is deeply con­cerned about the lat­est state­ments from Trump and North Korea. They hold the US partly re­spon­si­ble, say­ing Trump’s heated rhetoric is fu­elling the flames.

Trump’s tough talk has con­trib­uted to an in­crease in an­i­mos­ity that is push­ing the sides closer to armed con­flict, said Cheng Xiaohe of the School of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies at Bei­jing’s Ren­min Univer­sity.

“If not kept well un­der con­trol, this ver­bal spat could turn into a mil­i­tary clash,” he said, adding China should dis­patch diplo­mats to bring the sides to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

Bei­jing agreed to re­cent UN sanc­tions, de­spite po­ten­tial losses to Chi­nese firms do­ing busi­ness with North Korea and fears over desta­bil­is­ing the Py­ongyang regime.

A top Chi­nese ex­pert on North Korea said Py­ongyang seemed to have been heart­ened by Wash­ing­ton’s fail­ure to take firm mea­sures in re­sponse to ear­lier ac­tions.

Zhang Lian­gui, a pro­fes­sor at the rul­ing Com­mu­nist Party’s Cen­tral Party School, said: “This might make North Korea think that’s just some ver­bal threat, so its at­ti­tude is get­ting tougher and tougher.”

The US, China and Rus­sia need to come to­gether to force the North to de-es­ca­late, he said.

PIC­TURE: AP

This July 28 photo dis­trib­uted by the North Korean gov­ern­ment shows what was said to be the launch of a Hwa­song-14 in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile at an undis­closed lo­ca­tion in North Korea.

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