As we sit on the brink of World War Three, the situation on the Korean peninsula appears to be deteriorating on a daily basis. In what is now becoming a regular occurrence, there are heated exchanges between President Trump, and the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-Un. As the rest of the world sits and watches excited for more spicy meme’s which the crisis and impending war might bring us its, hard to comprehend a viable solution, let alone the real human cost of a second Korean War.
The battle lines have been firmly drawn, with the United States under the Trump administration seeking a complete nuclear disarmament of the rogue state of North Korea. This is widely supported by most of the Western World including the United Nations, the United Kingdom and Australia. On the other side of the battlefield sits the Communist regime of North Korea, under Kim Jong-Un. This regime has remained committed to the development of nuclear weapons as a means to shore up its future and global standing. Kim Jong-Un remains defiant under increasing international pressure and economic sanctions, refusing to even entertain the idea of nuclear disarmament as he perceives this as a necessary requirement to ensure the mere survival of his dying regime.
Meanwhile, China, North Korea’s largest trading partner and only major ally, has publicly supported the disarmament outlined by the United States. However, much more quietly behind closed doors, seeks to ensure that the North Korean regime remains stable as it is a cornerstone of their national security. Although the Chinese government have made it publicly clear they do not support the actions of Pyongyang, they require North Korea to remain a communist dictatorship and act as a buffer against the United States in the Asia-Pacific region.
The conflict itself is quite complex and stretches back to the 1950s Korean conflict, which never officially ended with both the North and South remaining in a state of war. This meant that the current crisis on the Korean peninsula is extremely complex. However, President Trump believes the situation isn’t complex at all, North Korean cant have nuclear weapons. Trump believes that if North Korea doesn’t have nuclear weapons, the world will be safe and he is happy to plunge the world into war to achieve this goal. The solution is simple to Kim Jung-Un too, he needs nuclear weapons to remain the leader of North Korean, and if anyone wants to challenge this, they are more than willing to go to war. This has resulted in a stalemate, between the two powers, with an ongoing Twitter barrage by Donald Trump and retaliation by North Korea with no one finding a solution to the problem, but everyone moving closer to war.
Although, it’s easy to read the stories about the crisis on social media and like a meme or two, about Donald Trump or Kim Jung-Un, it’s hard to comprehend the real human cost of this conflict. Over the past thirty years, the world has enjoyed its longest period of global peace, economic growth and improved living conditions. However, as generation X and the millennials, watch the conflict unfold over social media, it can be hard to imagine, the true devastating potential of this conflict. The deteriorating situation on the Korean peninsula has the strong potential to lead the world into what could possibly be the war to end all wars.
Many military advisers have run assessments over what a war in Korea would actually look like and the results are truly horrific. Although many indicate that the initial conflict may be fought using artillery and air strikes, ultimately a ground invasion of North Korea would be required. Although on paper, this idea does not sound daunting, the sheer military might of North Korea should have everyone concerned. North Korea has the fourth largest army in the world with over 1.25 million soldiers, and the only way for a sustained Allied campaign in the Korean peninsula would be all out war involving millions of young men and women sacrificing their lives. It has been estimated that in the first 30 days of the conflict, 20,000 people would die daily. This figure does not take into account the involvement of the Allied military forces which is estimated would increase the death toll to close to 50,000 people per day. Ultimately, this means that in the first month of the conflict, over 1.5 million people would die, which is almost half the population of Sydney.
Although the United States and its Allies are well intentioned in their actions, seeking to make the world a safer place by disarming North Korea, this may have the opposite effect, and plunge the world into war again. However, no-one has been able to develop a peaceful outcome to the situation. If the United States wants to avoid what may ultimately be viewed of one of the worlds greatest international relations failures, and a conflict which will define the Trump administration, they need to seek a diplomatic response, not a military one to resolve the crisis.
The solution to this problem may, in fact, lie at the heart of one of the United States greatest failures and feats of international relations, Iran.
Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, and the breakdown of diplomatic relations between Iran and American which led to over 30 years of poor relations between the United States and Iran. The US openly supported anyone willing to remove from power, Ruhollah Khomeini, and the Islamic Guard, including their future enemy, Saddam Hussein. This lead the Iranian Government, under Ruhollah Khomeini similarly to North Korea under Kim Jong-Un to examine ways to ensure the future of the regime. Ultimately, the Iranians determined the only way to ensure their survival was nuclear weapons. Through Soviet backing, Iran developed nuclear weapons for over 20 years, for the sole purpose of ensuring that the United States would not invade their country or attempt to remove them from power. Since 2005, the United States and Iran have engaged In long-running diplomatic talks, which have resulted in several treaties limiting Iran’s nuclear capabilities, while ensuring the survival of the Iranian Government. Through this, the United States under Barrack Obama, made the world a safer place, through what may possibly be one of the greatest feats of diplomacy the world has ever seen.
If the United State and President Trump truly want to make the world a safer place, by limiting North Korean power and nuclear capability, they must negotiate with the regime. The United States and its Allies must acknowledge that the North Korean regime is seeking nuclear armament as a means to ensuring the regime survival. The only way to solve the crisis and avoid a global conflict is to bring North Korea to the negotiating table under an open and transparent dialogue, which may involve them keeping their nuclear weapons. Although this viewpoint may be controversial, by allowing North Korean to keep its nuclear arsenal, and entering into diplomatic negotiations, this may rein in the unpredictability of the regime and provide America with a stronger standing during the negotiations. These negotiations may even ensure that peace returns to the Korean Peninsula and we are not plunged into World War Three.
Samuel Pascoe, Bachelor of Politics (CSU) and Bachelor of Counter-Terrorism (CSU), is a Domestic and Foreign Affairs Security expert who is currently completing a Master of Strategic Public Relations at Sydney University.