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Rising tensions on Korean Peninsula risk accidental war
Question of the Day
“The problem is that so much depends on the quality of their intelligence. We don’t know how clearly they can see and we don’t know how accurately they interpret what they see,” Mr. McCreary said, adding that a slight accident or miscalculation could erupt into warfare.
Bruce Bechtol, an associate professor at Angelo State University in Texas and a Korea scholar, said the North’s young leader lacks the experience, the skill and the judgment of his father and grandfather.
“That is what makes escalation more likely,” he said.
Western intelligence agencies believe North Korea has as many as a dozen nuclear weapons but lacks the technology to miniaturize them to fit into warheads. But the North also has medium- and long-range conventional missiles that could hit U.S. forces in South Korea, on the Japanese islands and perhaps even Guam.
Meanwhile, an agreement announced last week between U.S. and South Korean forces governs how the allies would respond to a North Korean provocation, such as the shelling of South Korean islands on the disputed maritime border or the sinking of a South Korean warship by a Northern submarine — both of which happened in 2010 and killed 50 people.
The South's military changed its rules of engagement afterward and “will escalate” in response to a provocation, he said. “They will likely go after not just the [North Korean] attacking units, but their logistics lines and the command and control elements in the rear.”
The new deal with the U.S. military also lowers the bar for escalation, he said, because the U.S. is now committed to join any subsequent response if the North retaliates against the South.
“The South Koreans feel by [upping their own response and drawing the United States in more quickly] they are deterring the North,” Mr. Bennett said.Guy Taylor and Susan Crabtree contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.
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About the Author
Shaun Waterman is an award-winning reporter for The Washington Times, covering foreign affairs, defense and cybersecurity. He was a senior editor and correspondent for United Press International for nearly a decade, and has covered the Department of Homeland Security since 2003. His reporting on the Sept. 11 Commission and the tortuous process by which some of its recommendations finally became ...
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