Daily NK contributor Gabriela Bernal recently posed a number of questions to A.B. Abrams, the author of a new book about North Korea called “Immovable Object: North Korea’s 70 Years at War with American Power.”
Q. Your book provides readers with interesting insights into the Korean War. From your perspective, what are the chances that another war will be fought on the Korean Peninsula within the next decade? What would such a war look like?
The Korean Peninsula is technically at war today, and although both Pyongyang and Seoul have taken steps towards reconciliation, a formal end to the Korean War is unlikely to be reached so long as the third party, the United States, does not perceive this to be in its interests under the current circumstances. Despite this, the possibility of escalation to a new hot war remains slim due to the mutual vulnerability between all three actors. As confirmed multiple times by US intelligence, North Korea demonstrated the capability in 2017 to deliver nuclear strikes across the US mainland, including to New York City and Washington D. C., building on its prior missile deterrent which held Guam and bases in Japan under threat. This kind of mutual vulnerability was wholly absent during the Korean War period in the early 1950s, where cities across North Korea were bombarded continuously for almost three years primarily by American aircraft which could strike from bases in Japan and South Korea without any risk of retaliation against Japanese or South Korean cities, much less American ones, or against the airfields housing the bombers.
To quote Ronald Reagan: “History teaches that wars begin when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.” Both sides can do such massive damage even without escalating to use of weapons of mass destruction that the chances of any party initiating a conflict remain very low. There is a strong case to be made that the chances of war were reduced considerably after 2017, as many in the American leadership such as Senator Lindsey Graham, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford and President Trump’s National Security Adviser at the time H. R. McMaster, among others, had all…