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Broken truce more bark than bite

06 March 2013

Tensions on the Korean peninsula have ramped up a notch, with North Korea threatening to scrap the treaty which brought the Korean War to a standstill 60 years ago in response to condemnation of its recent nuclear tests.

But while it has also threatened to fire nuclear weapons at the United States, North Korea’s bark may be much worse than its bite, according to a leading expert from the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

Dr Brendan Taylor, head of the College’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, said that calling off the truce will have little substantive impact on the real situation on the peninsula.

“Pyongyang already withdrew from the truce in 2009 in response to similar international pressure following its second nuclear test,” said Taylor.

“And while no-one really knows whether such a move will increase the likelihood of conflict on the peninsula, a betting man would say this is more bluster and brinkmanship from the North, than any fundamental change in posture.

“North Korea’s recent missile and nuclear tests demonstrate its improving capabilities. But it still remains years away from being able to mount a nuclear warhead on a missile and targeting that at the US. Technically that is quite difficult to achieve,” he said.

Taylor added that the North’s actions would also meet with continued steely responses from the US, South Korea and their allies.

“The US and its allies will likely maintain a firm stance in response to the North's recent nuclear and missile tests. Tougher UN sanctions will be pursued.

“But, the key relationship to watch will be that between the US and China, who have traditionally worked together most closely when tensions on the Peninsula have really peaked. That is the silver lining, of sorts, to this latest cloud.”

Regardless of how this latest provocation will eventually play out, one thing is certain according to Taylor – it is a continuation of the North’s long-history of isolation and politicking.

“I am not surprised by these latest announcements at all,” said Taylor. “They are very consistent with North Korean pronouncements over the last two decades.”


Updated:  24 April, 2017/Responsible Officer:  Dean, ANU College of Asia & the Pacific/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team