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Major War Conceivable on Korean Peninsula – Professor Emeritus

© Sputnik / Iliya Pitalev / Go to the photo bankPortraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il at a ceremony to open a new residential area on Ryomyong Street in Pyongyang.
Portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il at a ceremony to open a new residential area on Ryomyong Street in Pyongyang. - Sputnik International
The Korean crisis risks spiraling out of control, and faces a danger horizon that is “very, very acute and drastic.” This is according to John Dunn, Professor Emeritus of Political Theory at Cambridge, who has a long-standing interest in the politics of the Korean Peninsula. Radio Sputnik had the chance to interview him.

The United Nations Security Council recently passed a unanimous resolution imposing a fresh round of sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear weapons program. While it has been hailed as a diplomatic victory by the US, some doubt that it will be sufficient to bring North Korea to the negotiating table. There has also been recent discussion of imposing an oil embargo on the DPRK in order to cripple the "hermit kingdom" and affect the regime directly. Radio Sputnik asked Professor Emeritus John Dunn to give his comments on the topic.

People watch a TV broadcasting a news report on North Korea firing what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that landed close to Japan, in Seoul, South Korea, November 29, 2017 - Sputnik International
North Korea Could Come to Negotiating Table, Unlikely to Give Up Nukes – Analyst

John Dunn: It's very difficult to punish the apex of the North Korean regime and, I dare say, if it were possible to cut off all oil products, it would eventually get through to them. But there is a lot in between them and the impact of anything like this. I'm afraid what it will certainly mean is that most of the population of North Korea will suffer very badly.

READ MORE: China Calls for Restraint Following Adoption of UNSC Resolution on North Korea

In the very long run, if the sanctions were sustained, they would obviously hinder the ability] of the regime to operate. But I think it's pretty certain that before then, in desperation and increasing irrationality, the regime would lash out and do something frightful and what, in a way, has been the real threat throughout, would be actualized. So, I don't really see this as being a major step forward. From the point of view of American diplomacy, it is a triumph of kind. It's a rather belated triumph, but it is a kind of triumph.

Obviously the Chinese government is very angry with the North Korean regime and rather frightened by what might happen, as well it might be. If anything really bad happens, it will affect China more directly than it would the United States, unless it is a nuclear attack on American territory.

Sputnik: Do you think that this will actually have the effect of destabilizing the situation in the very near future, or perhaps one of the goals of these sanctions was to reinstate the six-party talks? Do you think that this will push the North Korean government toward taking part in those talks?

John Dunn: It's not inconceivable that it will, but I don't think it's very likely that it will, because they are very difficult to push, they don't react well to being pushed. They have got to where they have got to by raising their threat level.

READ MORE: Trump Praises UN Security Council Vote on New North Korea Sanctions

Sputnik: What do you imagine to be the response now of North Korea? Will there be more tests, will they step up the nuclear program to try to hurry up and finish while they still do have some reserves of resources? Or will they be likely to take part in talks and negotiations?

John Dunn: I don't think they're likely to settle for negotiations. I think the circumstances in which they might settle for negotiations, and this is very interesting in American politics at the moment, the circumstances in which they might decide to do negotiations are if the negotiations consisted of a single negotiation between them and the government of the United States. I think it's not inconceivable that they would settle for that, because that would be a tremendous coup from their point of view. They set a preposterous amount of weight on face, and that would be a very gratifying outcome to produce.

It is possible that they could find some sort of bargain with the United States; I don't quite see what it could be, but they would be much likelier to find one if they were looking for one. There are sorts of symbolic forms that it could take, I mean, the peace treaty between the United States and North Korea. That would be a tremendous coup from the North Korean point of view. I again don't quite see how it would work with the South Korean regime, I don't know what the Chinese government would think about it either. But I think that they are looking for something. First of all, they are very gratified with where they have got to, and you have to say that they are quite right to be, within their own crazy vision of the world, since they've actually faced off against the greatest power in the world and they certainly haven't lost.

People watch a TV broadcasting a news report on North Korea firing what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that landed close to Japan, in Seoul, South Korea, November 29, 2017 - Sputnik International
Seoul Not Ready for Outcomes of Possible US Attack on North Korea - Analysts

It is conceivable that they will do something completely crazy, and that there really will be a major war on the Korean Peninsula, and it would spread around a bit if there was, though nobody can tell quite how far. There is a horizon of danger that is very, very acute and drastic, but I don't expect it to occur because I don't think they are completely crazy. I just think they have a very odd vision of the world and they have an astonishing degree of determination.

It's now the case that I think that any attack on North Korea would certainly do terrible harm, not just to South Korea, but to anything that they… Well, I suppose it is just possible, if the United States could actually hit all the nuclear launch sites. It's just possible that they could take out the nuclear threat. I mean, they could only take it out, as it were, once, they couldn't keep on doing so. But that's very technical, it depends on how effectively hidden it is, and how easily it can be pulled out and launched after any form of surgical strike.

But I can't see how the United States could attack North Korea with any sense of security at all. They would certainly know that if that happened, American forces in South Korea, of whom there are rather a lot, and of course the population of Seoul, which is a very large percentage of the total population of South Korea, would suffer terribly.

Sputnik: Just a final question. If we could take the six-party talks, for instance, do you feel that all the parties are really interested in a diplomatic solution?

John Dunn: I think by now, everyone except North Korea would be very keenly interested in a diplomatic solution, because this has gone a considerable distance beyond a joke, it's very bad from everyone else's point of view. That's why the Security Council voted the way it did. The Chinese are now very anxious and very cross, and that is a significant shift; they've become more anxious as time has gone by and crosser as time has gone by, but they are not very sympathetic to American interests, they don't really care about the United States as such at all, but it isn't surprising that they've voted for these sanctions. They've taken their time, but they meant to.

The views and opinions expressed by John Dunn are those of the professor emeritus and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik's position.

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