North Korea recently announced that its firing of a missile over Japan was merely ‘the first step’ of a series of planned military operations in the Pacific. North Korea’s official news agency, KCNA, stated that Tuesday’s launch would be followed by further acts, and once again repeated threats to the US Pacific island of Guam, calling it an ‘advanced base of invasion’. The announcement is the first time North Korea has publicly admitted to deliberately firing a missile over the Japanese mainland, with previous incidents later claimed by the country to have been satellite launches. KCNA stated that Tuesday’s incident was a direct response to US-South Korean military drills currently in progress, as well as to mark the anniversary of the Japan-Korea treaty of 1910, which saw the annexation of the Korean peninsula by Japanese forces.
The Security Situation in Korea
Although North Korea has been working on its missile program for several decades, and has conducted multiple short- and medium-range tests – in direct violation of UN sanctions – Tuesday’s launch nevertheless seemed designed as a deliberate provocation at a time of significant regional tension. In a rare show of unity the UN Security Council unanimously condemned the action as ‘outrageous’ while US President Donald Trump issued a statement reaffirming that the US is considering ‘all options’ in response to North Korea’s actions.
Any potential military action against the regime is complicated by the closeness of the South Korean capital of Seoul to the border. It is highly unlikely that surgical airstrikes against North Korea’s missile launch sites, command and control structures, and leadership facilities could happen swiftly enough to prevent significant retaliation against the South. With Seoul – a city of circa 10 million people – in range of what is estimated to be hundreds of conventional artillery and missile launch batteries, catastrophic loss of civilian life would almost certainly occur were preemptive military measures embarked upon by either the United States or wider world.
Policy Options and Security in Korea
The further application of economic pressure also presents a challenge. North Korea is already the target of significant financial sanctions by the UN, which have attempted to target its weapons programs and economic infrastructure. Despite this North Korea’s missile development efforts have continued to make progress, while as of June 2017 US intelligence officials have announced that they believe North Korea is capable of producing a miniaturised nuclear warhead. Further economic pressure would require the co-operation of China, whose banks largely enable the continued financial viability of the North Korean state. This said, up until this point China has largely been wary of instigating actions which would actively destabilise North Korea – viewing the continued stability of the state as preferable to the potential chaos which would likely ensue were the North Korean government to collapse.
Business and International Travel Security in South Korea
Obviously the security situation in North and South Korea is unstable. We are monitoring developments closely. That said, as international travel security consultants, we have many business clients with important business assets in South Korea. The political and military security situation is only part of a total corporate security analysis for our clients. If you have business interests in Korea, and are interested in international corporate security consulting for business in Korea, reach out to us for a consultation.