South Korea has vowed to shoot first and ask questions later if its forces are provoked by North Korea, as angry rhetoric on the Korean peninsula escalated dramatically today. “If there is any provocation…there should be a strong response in initial combat without any political considerations,” President Park Geun-hye said on Monday. According to the FT, “Her comments suggest that Seoul will be less tolerant of Pyongyang than under Lee Myung-bak, the former president who was criticised for not responding more forcefully when North Korea sank a South Korean ship and shelled an island.”
VM is largely unmoved by the ritualistic drumbeat of hate from North Korea. Spewing threats and bile is pretty much the norm for the world’s least attractive regime. We generally share the White House’s view: it’s serious, but the Norks have a history of empty hostility. South Korea, on the other hand, is a serious country. When its president tells the military to, essentially, shoot first and ask questions afterward in response to any northern aggression, the potential for trouble is up.
So President Park’s comments concern us a little more than usual. It was Park’s predecessor who amended the South’s rules of engagement to allow the military to retaliate against the North first and tell the government about it after. Still, Park—the daughter of Park Chung-hee, the general who seized power in a military coup and ruled South Korea for 18 years as President for Life—is widely considered to be holding a harder line against the Norks than her predecessor. This morning, she made it very clear that she, too, will brook no aggression from the North.