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The Decline of Détente and the Dynamics of South-North Korea and US Relations: Focusing on Ax-murder Incident at Panmunjeom

문순보 1

1세종연구소

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this article is to study the international background of Ax-murder Incident at Panmunjeom in 1976 and the limits of the Republic of Korea (ROK) - the United States (US) responds to the incident, then provides effective measures against the North Korean provocations. The state of international affairs prior to the incident was changing sharply. As the international détente was waning, the ROK-US Alliance was weakened and North Korea increased provocations to sound out the intensity of the US support for the ROK. Ax-murder Incident at Panmunjeom was, I believe, a premeditated incident. I make a judgement that North Korea intended the withdrawal of the US troops from the ROK and the murdering of two US Army officers was a symbolic gesture. Besides, they wanted to weaken the ROK-US Alliance, and to gauge the US willingness to maintain the international détente. The ROK and US reacted with military strength increase at the early stage, but this coercive effect didn't last long because the US was much conscious of détente with the Soviet Union. The constraint of the US action has been a primary factor to give a wrong signal to North Korea that they can continue provocations against the ROK. Even when the Ax-murder incident took place at Panmunjeom, the US coercive diplomacy had only a limited effect. North Korea already knew that the US would not risk a war even though the US made a strong military reaction after the incident. We must reflect over the fact that Kim Il-sung expressed regret to the US Government but didn't punish those who were responsible for the incident and didn't take any action to prevent the US military demonstration couldn't, however big it may be, projected into North Korea soundly. Although Kim Il-sung expressed his regret to the US at that time, he didn't punish those responsible for violation and make efforts to prevent the recurrence of such a brutal behavior. In sum, it was true that Kim Il-sung was frightened by the immediate US military reaction, but the US policy was only a half cock success. The typical US half cock strategy is also reflected in the sinking of the Cheonan, one of the ROK Navy corvette which was occurred in March 2010. The ROK and US Government did not show any decisive countermove against the North Korean attack against the ROK Navy corvette Cheonan. I believe there will be international sanctions against North Korea, but it would not be strong enough to change North Korea. Under this situation, the US must come up with a viable alternative. In view of Ax-murder Incident at Panmunjeom case, the best solution we can think of is the use of military coercion in the early stage at that case. It is to transcend the limitations of sanctions and develop a workable strategy including force of arms to drive North Korea into a critical situation blocking all escapes.

Citation status

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