‘Washington calling shots in Korean dispute’

Despite no intention from Pyongyang and Seoul to start a war, the further escalation of tensions between the sides and the US solicitation could really lead to military conflict on the Korean Peninsula, former European MP Glyn Ford told RT.

South Korea has backtracked on claims that the North is preparing a fourth nuclear test later this week as a government minister in Seoul now says he was being inaccurate when talking about indications of activity at a North Korean test site.

Meanwhile, Pyongyang has announced that it is suspending all work at two countries’ Kaesong industrial zone and is evacuating its personnel from the area.

A former member of the European Parliament and an expert on Asia, Glyn Ford, believes the relations between the two Koreas have reached their nadir and war is a possibility if the situation won’t start to improve.  

He also sees Washington’s delay of its long-planned missile test as just a political, not a sincere, step to avoid further escalation on the Korean Peninsula.

We've heard Seoul say North Korea is planning another nuclear test, then backtrack. Does Pyongyang actually pose a serious threat, or is it just all talk?

Glyn Ford: There’s clearly a potential threat of a conflict on the [Korean] Peninsula. We’ve seen a number of incidents over the last few years where there’d been clashes, particularly around the northern limit line at sea between the North and South. And in the current climate another clash like that could very easily escalate. I don’t think either side actually intends to start a military conflict. The danger is that these things can happen by accident.

 South Korea's President Park Geun-Hye (AFP Photo)

RT:What exactly is Pyongyang trying to achieve with this war rhetoric aimed against a country clearly superior to it in military might? GF:

What we’ve got ourselves into is a dangerous escalation on both sides. It started with [North Korean supreme leader] Kim Jong-un, actually, being involved in a satellite launch back in December; than we had a nuclear test in February just before, Park Geun-hye, the new South Korean president, took office. We have a situation now where she doesn’t certainly want to be seen as weak. The same is true about Kim Jong-un.

And so we’re getting this sort of escalation upwards. And neither side seems capable of actually looking at how it might deescalate from where we are now, which puts us in a dangerous position. Not because – as I said I think either side intends to use military action, but these things can very easily happened by accident.

The US has been boosting its military presence around the Korean Peninsula in recent weeks. Why all of a sudden delay a ballistic missile test in order to avoid escalation, like they say? GF:

Frankly, I’m not very convinced. We, actually, have a situation where they are deploying more troops and deploying more ships. They have can redeploy announced theater missile defense in Guam, which is a US colony that’s comparatively close to the Korean Peninsula. So there’s a three steps one way – one step backwards. I think it difficult to convince Pyongyang that this is much of a concession.

The inter-Korean industrial complex of Kaesong is seen from a South Korean observation tower in Paju near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas (AFP Photo)
RT:And what exactly would it take from all the sides involved to finally resolve this conflict?

GF: I think that the whole issue is that the North Korea is genuinely see that the US is being the key. North Korea has always been asking foe bilateral talks between the US and Pyongyang, Washington and Pyongyang rather than Seoul, because they see Washington actually calling the shots, ultimately.

RT:How much worse do you see the dispute between the North and South getting, and is Pyongyang lining itself up for more international isolation?

GF: I’m not sure it can get a lot worse. We’ve just heard they’re actually going to suspend work in the Kaesong industrial complex, which employs about 53,000-odd North Koreans in a joint venture with the South. That has never been suspended before, they’ve got trouble. So we’ve got to a situation we probably not seen – in terms of dangers – in several decades at least. So I don’t think it can’t get much worse – it needs to start getting better as soon as possible.