Korean animosity won’t spark World War III

Put aside your fears of a third world war, a reinstated draft and another endless American troop deployment — there isn’t going to be another war in Korea. The North Korea artillery attack came just months after the sinking of the South Korean destroyer Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors. Though North Korea denies involvement in the attack, a five-nation panel concluded that the sinking was caused by a North Korean torpedo. While both of these incidents have garnered international media attention, this isn’t the first time there has been conflict. There have been a number of small transgressions around the demilitarized zone since it was created by the 1953 armistice, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of South Koreans and more than 50 American soldiers. The joint exercises in the Yellow Sea between the United States and South Korean navies don’t signal an escalation in the conflict, but served as a deterrent to further North Korean aggression, which led to last month’s deadly shelling of a South Korean island — not to mention that the maneuvers were planned before the North Korean attack. It doesn’t make sense for North Korea to invade the South and engage in a full-scale ground war when the country is amidst a transition of power. The acting leader, Kim Jong-il, is ailing, and reported by news organizations such as The New York Times to have had a stroke in 2008. This year, he named his youngest son, Jong Un, as his successor. North Korea is a nation of few friends and relies on China, situated directly to the north, as its strongest supporter. But China has been a reluctant ally of late. A document released in the latest batch of WikiLeaks discusses a Chinese official calling North Korea a “spoiled child.” The Christian Science Monitor reported last month that North Korea is becoming increasingly dependent on China for aid to alleviate the widespread poverty that exists under Jong-il’s regime. It is not in China’s best interest to support a North Korean invasion, which would anger the United States. China is the second largest trading partner of the United States, a partnership worth $366 billion. An invasion into the South would surely draw the United States into the conflict; some 28,000 American GIs are currently stationed on the peninsula. North Korea has the fourth largest military in the world; its ground forces number over one million. While this may seem impressive, CNN described the Korean Peoples Army as “aging,” noting its outdated arsenal of weapons. This is all overshadowed by the fact that nation’s populace is starving. According to the World Food Programme, 68 percent of North Koreans were consuming less than half their daily caloric needs. Every year, the nation faces massive food shortfalls. North Korea can’t fight a war against South Korea when it’s waging a war of attrition against its own citizens. While China and United States are often at odds over a variety of issues, neither nation is going to allow itself to be dragged into a war because of a lunatic in Pyongyang. China will use North Korea’s dependence on its aid to reign in the rogue nation; the United States will remain steadfast in its support for South Korea, and a war will be avoided for the time being.