Since the deadlock in nuclear talks between the DPRK and the US in 2019, the sluggish relationship between the DPRK and the ROK, and the advent of the new crown pandemic in early 2020, which has led nations to suffer, the Korean peninsula has been relatively calm for a period of time. However, North Korea has claimed that it would no longer comply with its vow to pause ICBM and nuclear testing, and has launched a number of missiles, including an ICBM, since the beginning of this year.
At the same time, Yoon Suk-yeol, a People Power Party, South Korean Conservative Party candidate, was chosen president of the next administration. The situation on the Korean peninsula is deteriorating due to the nuclear and missile threats. The Russian-Ukrainian conflict’s influence on the world’s political and economic structure has already reached the Korean Peninsula. The DPRK and the ROK have opposing perspectives on the Russia-Ukraine crisis, as well as opposing policy positions, complicating the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
The Russian-Ukrainian crisis exacerbates the concept of the Korean peninsula’s “new cold war”
Following the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the DPRK attributed the root cause of the situation in Ukraine to US power and tyranny, believing that the Russia-Ukraine conflict was caused by “the US and the West ignoring Russia’s reasonable and legitimate demands for legal security and insisted on advancing NATO eastward.” The ramifications plainly support Russia’s perspective. South Korea, on the other hand, has taken the exact opposite line, not only imposing sanctions on Russia with the US and Europe, but also extending greater support and help to Ukraine. The differing perspectives of the DPRK and the ROK on the war between Russia and Ukraine originate not only from disparities in the pursuit of interests of the two nations, but also from the particular connection that the DPRK and the ROK have with Russia and the US, respectively.
In reality, following the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the United States and Western nations purposefully formed two camps based on ideology, which further fueled the Korean peninsula’s long-standing Cold War mentality, particularly in South Korea. Moon Jae-in emphasized “the present new Cold War structure” in speeches such as “March 1st Commemorative Speech,” “Department Chief National Security Conference (NSC) Speech,” “Chief Assistant Officers Meeting Speech,” and others.
The emergence of the “Cold War” pattern has heightened the conflict between the system and principles of democracy and authoritarianism. The view of the “new Cold War” by South Korean officials will surely have a significant influence on all sectors of the country, as well as strengthen the existing “new Cold War” trend of thought. In reality, North Korea is unaffected by the “new Cold War” trend.
However, after the US and Japan have joined forces, if South Korea insists on siding with the US and supporting the military alliance between the US, Japan, and South Korea to contain China, a “new Cold War pattern” in Northeast Asia is quite possible. Because, as South Korea’s geopolitical prominence rises, its position becomes more prominent, and the impact of its diplomatic decisions expands.
The risk of rising hostilities on the Korean peninsula grows
South Korea believes that the Russian-Ukrainian crisis would enhance North Korea’s ambition to acquire nuclear weapons and make denuclearization of the peninsula more difficult. Simultaneously, North Korea’s continual and frequent missile launches have heightened South Korea’s anxieties about North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. At the moment, North Korea has not only renewed the ICBM test, but also hinted at another nuclear test.
In this regard, President-elect Yoon plans to respond by fortifying South Korea’s comprehensive strategic relationship with the US, “joining the Quartet security discussion mechanism,” and “additionally deploying THAAD.” Condemned and rebutted, alleging that if South Korea engages in armed conflict, North Korea’s “nuclear combat force would be forced to carry out its own purpose.”
Although Yoon Suk-yeol has clearly reverted to the harsh “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization (CVID)” posture on the Korean peninsula’s disarmament, it may be impossible to prevent the DPRK from conducting another nuclear test. The resumption of tensions between the DPRK and the ROK has stalled the trust process on the Korean peninsula, which the Moon Jae-in administration has been pushing for, and has been harshly condemned by domestic opposition groups.
However, given that the United States forces the rest of the world to prioritize other values over peace, Yoon’s government adopted a “strong-versus-strong” policy at the start of its tenure, causing tensions on the peninsula and even a new security crisis, which will inevitably arouse strong concerns among the people. Its competence to rule has even been called into question.