South Korean and US officials have signed a plan for retaliation against a possible attack from North Korea, a deal which would oblige US military intervention even in the case of limited skirmishes along the disputed border.
“It will have the effect of preventing the North from daring to provoke us,” insisted South Korean Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok. The plan is being touted as a potential response to a threatened attack on South Korean islands along the maritime border.
Small incidents along the border are not unusual, and in late 2010 North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire, with both sides blaming the other for starting it. Earlier in that same year, South Korea’s government accused the north of sinking a ship, though it remains unclear to this day if they were actually involved.
Though the exact terms of today’s pact are not public yet, there is a risk that rather than preventing such incidents, the obligation for direct US military involvement could mean precipitous escalation when minor disputes break out, and might encourage South Korea to pick fights for diplomatic gain, counting on North Korea to fear a full-scale war enough to knuckle under quickly.