Hours after South Korea said it wanted to restore dialogue with North Korea, the nation’s president, Moon Jae In, warned of a potential military conflict between South Korea and its northern adversary. At a visit to South Korea’s Defense Ministry in Seoul, Moon told staffers there was “a high possibility of a military conflict” along two demarcation lines—one on land and the other at sea—between the neighboring countries. His words seemed to echo a comment last month from President Trump, who said the U.S. could “end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea.”
Moon was elected earlier this month after calling for a two-pronged approach to relations with North Korea that includes both sanctions and increased dialogue. This “Sunshine Policy,” favored by South Korea from 1998 to 2008, seeks to develop peaceful cooperation between the two nations without tolerating an armed attack from North Korea. However, as North Korea continues to ramp up its nuclear programs and ballistic missile testing, the threat of military aggression has become increasingly palpable.
On Sunday, North Korea defied UN Security Council resolutions by conducting a test launch of an intermediate-range ballistic missile. Flying 430 miles and reaching an altitude of more than 1,245 miles, the launch was North Korea’s most successful to date. It is widely acknowledged that North Korea is in the process of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the United States. Due to their close proximity to North Korea, U.S. bases in South Korea and Japan are believed to be more immediate targets. South Korea is currently home to around 28,500 U.S. troops, while Japan hosts around 49,000.