In an interview with Voice of America News, Katy Oh explains why she believes North Korea will stage a response to South Korea’s artillery drills.
KATY OH: I think this is a classic North Korean game. When there is an expectation of some kind of retaliatiion and counter attacks, North Korea remains silent. But, when the United States and South Korea are relaxed, perhaps over the national holidays then North Korea could launch a surprise attack, which is a recurring tactic of the North Korean regime.
VOA NEWS: So, you do expect a retaliation and quite soon?
OH: Whether it is a retaliation or a new provocation, they will not be sitting quiet for long. They will continue to seem to be doing so, but they will use the best mix of surprise and shock.
VOA NEWS: Could diplomacy prevent North Korea from going ahead with retaliation or with another provocation?
OH: Basically, my answer is ‘no’, because in a sense that the United States, South Korea, Japan, Russia and China urge North Korea to return to the six-party talks, we always send them a signal, ‘look, we’re really seriously ready to sit down with you’. As long as we wanted to talk about this real substantial issue, North Korea always walked away. They would like to control the situation with their own agenda while keeping their nuclear option open. In that case, the United States and South Korea will not talk to them. But, it does not mean we gave up on diplomacy. I think North Korea has its own agenda and they will use a combination of diplomacy and provocation to reach their own goals. North Korea is a regime that needs an external crisis, for two reasons: to have social control and to continue the legitimacy of the regime that is not really legitimate in terms of delivering welfare and economic benefit for the population. So, with that mindset, I think there will be a provocation in the near future. I think that other countries, particularly the United States, South Korea and Japan should be fully alert and possibly use assymetrical warfare to deal with this unpredictable nemisis…this country.
US military buildup so far is not part of a larger strategy, so it's not clear what the end game is for the US. That was the same ultimate goal for the administrations of George W. Bush, Obama, and now Trump. The Carl Vinson strike group cannot stay at the DPRK's [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] doorstep indefinitely.
The president is surrounded by serious advisers who have either served or serve in the military, and are aware of the risks of military action [against North Korea]. I think Trump, whatever his public posture, is getting a sober education on some of the realities.
Deterrence [against North Korea] has worked remarkably well for more than 60 years as both sides understand the consequences of taking military action. The question is whether those ground rules are changing now. I don't believe they are. Still, miscalculation is a concern and too much rhetoric and idle chatter from both sides about preemptive strikes could lead one side to seriously consider taking action. There are extraordinary inhibitions in the use of force, but that's not a guarantee.