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On both sides of Korean Peninsula, eyes are on Washington's response to Russia

With the Games now over and the Biden administration’s attention fixed on Ukraine, North Korea might decide it’s time to resume weapons tests, to gain more diplomatic leverage with Washington.

February 26, 2022 / 09:46 PM IST
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (AP file image)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (AP file image)

Both North and South Korea are likely to be closely watching the American response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, though for different reasons, analysts say.

North Korea carried out a flurry of missile tests in January, but none this month — possibly out of deference to its neighbor and ally China, which was hosting the Winter Olympics. With the Games now over and the Biden administration’s attention fixed on Ukraine, North Korea might decide it’s time to resume weapons tests, to gain more diplomatic leverage with Washington.

“The crisis in Ukraine gives North Korea more room for options, whether it’s a long-range missile test or even a nuclear test,” said Cheon Seong-whun, a former head of the Korea Institute for National Unification, a government-funded research institute in Seoul.

In South Korea, many people will see Washington’s response to Russia’s invasion as a test of its dependability as a military ally, said Lee Byong-chul, a professor of political science at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul.

He said a failure of American leadership could even increase public support for the idea of South Korea having its own nuclear weapons — an idea that the South’s government opposes, but which has gained popularity as the North has kept building its arsenal and China has become more assertive in the region.

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“South Koreans saw the United States already looking something like a toothless tiger when it withdrew chaotically from Afghanistan,” Lee said. “If it proves spineless in Ukraine, they will talk more about arming their country with nuclear weapons, because they wonder whether Ukraine would have suffered the humiliation it is suffering now had it not have given up its nuclear weapons.”

After the breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine gave up the Soviet nuclear weapons on its soil in exchange for security guarantees.

South Korean online chat rooms were abuzz with people discussing the Ukraine invasion’s implications for the divided Korean Peninsula. A weak American response would harden North Korea’s determination not to give up its nuclear arsenal, some people said.

The South Korean government has condemned the invasion and pledged to join international sanctions against Russia. As of Saturday, the North Korean government had not issued a statement about the invasion. — CHOE SANG-HUN

Landmarks in New York and elsewhere use lights to show support for Ukraine.

Several New York landmarks are being illuminated in blue and yellow, the colors of the Ukrainian flag, through the weekend as a show of solidarity for the people of Ukraine, Gov. Kathy Hochul said Friday.

“New York is the proud home of the largest Ukrainian population in the United States, and we condemn the unjust and unconscionable violence being perpetrated against the people of Ukraine,” Hochul said in a statement. “We stand in solidarity with those in New York who are scared for their family and loved ones, and our prayers are with the innocent victims as they fight to maintain their freedom as a sovereign people and nation.”

The landmarks include the World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, the Kosciuszko Bridge, the Mid-Hudson Bridge and other structures and buildings throughout the state.

Landmarks have been similarly lit up in recent days across the world, including the Eiffel Tower, the London Eye, the Colosseum in Rome and the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.

Several cities across the United States, including Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Minneapolis and Kansas City, Missouri, and Little Rock, Arkansas, have also joined the effort.

Some were skeptical of the displays, with one commenter tweeting about the Empire State Building, “This won’t help the good people of Ukraine. What will?” — NADAV GAVRIELOV

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

c.2022 The New York Times Company



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New York Times
first published: Feb 26, 2022 09:46 pm
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