North Korea might nuke out of despair

Despite threats of a nuclear response from North Korea, a joint navy drill between the US and South Korea is underway off the region's peninsula.

The exercise involves 20 ships, 200 aircraft and about 8,000 troops; it will last until Wednesday.

Tensions have been running high after an international commission blamed the North for the sinking of a South Korean ship back in March. Pyongyang denied any involvement in the incident.

Although the US says it does not want to invade, 28,000 American troops are based in South Korea and 50,000 more in Japan.

Leonid Petrov, a lecturer on Korean Studies at Sydney University, believes Washington’s actions are provoking Pyongyang.

“North Korea never threatens first. North Korea is a small, destitute, poor, impoverished, struggling, pariah state. I believe that North Korea simply reacts or, sometimes, overreacts to the threats that come from the outside. If the US decides to go ahead and execute invasion or regime change [in North Korea], I would not be surprised if Pyongyang at some stage decides to use its nuclear deterrence capability against whatever enemy is closest – and South Korea is going to be the first victim of it.”

The US military exercises are a show-up not specifically for North Korea, but for China and Russia, believes Pavel Leshakov, Director of the International Centre for Korean Studies in Moscow.

A possible attack on North Korea to overthrow the existing regime is out of question. The last time the Pentagon was actively preparing for war with North Korea was in 1994, recalled Leshakov.

It is true that North Korea has a big army, while a great part of its population lives in extreme poverty. Still, the “regime is rather stable, much more stable than 15 years ago when Kim Jong-Il took power from his father.”

Watch full interview with Pavel Leshakov

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