Editor’s Note: In an interview with the Voice of America, Evans Revere comments on the escalating tensions on the Korean peninsula, and explains that the U.S., South Korea, and Japan are taking North Korea’s threats seriously.
VOICE OF AMERICA: There is a threat from the North to shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which is jointly run by both countries. If that happens, what are the prospects for direct talks between the two Koreas?
EVANS REVERE: I think the prospects would be slim, to say the least. I think that would be an unfortunate step. It would be a signal that an already troubled relationship is going to get worse. Certainly there are some economic benefits that flow to the North from Kaesong – those would obviously stop, but there are also economic benefits that flow to South Korean manufacturers from that project and those would stop as well and I think that would be unfortunate for both sides.
VOICE OF AMERICA: Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, today condemned the North’s recent threats to launch strikes Sunday, saying Japan is on full alert.
REVERE: As is the United States, and as are ROK troops. It’s, I think, important to send very clear and very firm messages to the North Koreans that we’re taking their threats seriously. We don’t want to overreact, obviously, but we do want to make it clear to them that we – the United States, our South Korean ally, as well as Japan are prepared for a whole range of contingencies, and that’s why I think it’s important for President Park to have said the sort of things she is reported to have said today, because I think that does send a clear message to the North Koreans that a provocation will result in a response; therefore do not provoke.
I think some people are overreacting — the people who say, oh this is the end of the U.S.-China relationship as we know it. That’s not necessarily true. They could be lenient to Trump and treat Taiwan differently. We need to know a lot more and we shouldn’t pre-judge the situation but we shouldn’t trivialize it either.
I think the scratches on the oracle bone suggest that they may be more lenient with Trump than with Tsai Ing-wen. We have already seen examples of ways that Beijing is pressuring the Tsai administration because it has not complied with Beijing’s demands about the 1992 consensus.
China has a couple of options here. It could choose to be unhappy about this, but not make it a big issue. The other way they could see it is the first step in a kind of probe towards moving towards an official relationship. [Beijing] might calculate that it is better to react vigorously and strongly with the first step rather than wait for the situation to get worse.